Independence Day is all about celebrating freedom with family and friends. In all that celebration, it’s easy to forget about the people that helped make the country the way it is today. I know I forget sometimes.
These two wish kids remembered these people: soldiers, Marines, and airmen. Not only that, but they wanted to be among the ranks.
Alyssa Joins the Army
Alyssa, 12, wanted nothing more than to be in the Army like her uncle. However, because of her diagnosis, she is unable to enlist when she turns 18. So with the help of Make-A-Wish, Alyssa was able to become the soldier she has always wanted to be.
She spent the week at Fort Jackson as a soldier-in-training. Obstacle courses and marksmanship were some of many challenges facing this soldier, besides waking up at 05:30. However, one challenge she was determined to overcome: Victory Tower. It was a forty foot rappel--and Alyssa conquered it with the help of her teammates. At the end of her stay, Alyssa was awarded the Commander’s Award for Public Service and graduated basic training. She proved to herself she had what it takes. The name on her uniform wasn’t just her name--it was a symbol of her accomplishment and her place among the ranks.
Because of her experience, Alyssa said: “I will never give up again.”
Jorge: The Youngest Marine
Jorge, 6, loves to pretend he is a soldier with his friends. It’s his favorite thing to do--he has always wanted to be a soldier. However, after a retinoblastoma diagnosis, Jorge’s eyesight has become impaired and will likely impact his ability to reenlist later.
Camp Pendleton and Make-A-Wish teamed up to give Jorge the experience of a lifetime. He met lots of real Marines, became general for a day, pet the dogs in the canine unit, took boxing lessons, and rode in assault vehicles. Jorge got the chance to be a Marine … and not just a hero in his favorite game.
Not Just a Uniform
What strikes me most about these two wishes is the amount of humility in them. It takes a lot of bravery to be a soldier. Bravery that I know I don’t have. What six or twelve-year-old says their one true wish is to be a soldier? - These people fight, sacrifice and essentially put themselves last. They gave up their own freedom so that I could have mine.
So, this Independence Day, instead of focusing completely on fireworks and watermelon, I will think of all the soldiers that aren’t celebrating with their families. I will also remember Alyssa and Jorge, and how even in the face of illness, they still chose to put on a uniform.
I think that is also something worth celebrating.