There’s a row of green helmets on the deck of the Naval Special Warfare Training Center. It stretches more than 50 feet, with white numbers and names stenciled on them with care. They belonged to prospective Navy SEAL operators from the latest class who, for one reason or another, opted out of the grueling training.
They may be fed up with being cold, wet and hungry during their initial training, which successful candidates finish in six months. Some may return later, better prepared for the physical and psychological challenges. Whether they stay, leave or return another time, they have a choice.
Brandon doesn’t have that choice. Every day of his life, he contends with the effects of cystic fibrosis. He faces a constant regimen of therapy, treatment and medication. There is no way to opt out.
That, explains a SEAL medic, is why he wrote “You’re my hero” on a U.S. flag the team presented to Brandon.
The medic is one of many SEAL operators who welcomed Brandon into their home for a day. Since he was 6 years old, Brandon has looked up to elite military personnel. Their training, courage, equipment and history inspire him. When Brandon’s father, Tony, referred him for a wish, no one in his family was surprised when he asked about being a Navy SEAL.
A Chance to Do Something Memorable
Tony referred Brandon for a wish as soon as he learned he was medically eligible.
“It was an opportunity to do something that he couldn’t do on his own,” Tony said.
The family only learned that Brandon’s wish would come true a few weeks earlier. It barely seemed real to them; it was still hard for Brandon to process even as they flew from Ohio to San Diego.
A SEAL Team Becomes a Wish-Granting Team
SEAL teams are a close-knit family. They pull together when there’s any need for the skills they offer. Brandon’s visit gave them a different-from-usual reason to rally. From snipers to troop chiefs, every operator was motivated to welcome Brandon into the closely guarded area where they perfect their skills.
A brief tour and explanation of the training started Brandon’s experience. Soon, the team had him dressed in digital camouflage in preparation for a visit to the Obstacle Course. He faced a 50-foot net obstacle, among others.
“I’ve never gotten to challenge myself like that and I loved it,” Brandon said. “That’s the most-amazing hard work I’ve ever put into anything.”
At no time during the O Course, though, did Brandon hear anyone say “maybe you shouldn’t do this.” The SEAL team gave him every chance to do the obstacles, and they came together as a family to help him conquer any he couldn’t yet complete on his own.
Understanding and Encouragement
The team medic had a great understanding of Brandon’s challenges. There’s a condition brought about by extreme stress while swimming that is similar to Brandon’s symptoms.
“They go through an exercise that puts the operator in a state much like what Brandon endures, but his condition is much more progressed and extreme,” he said.
The medic was astounded that someone who faces that condition every day would be so willing to endure the O Course – and that he had a role to perform in granting a wish.
“It means a lot to me that someone would make this wish,” he said. “I wouldn’t have passed this up for anything.”
The entire team shared the excitement. Beyond the core group of SEAL hosts, others made time to meet Brandon, shake his hand and offer words of encouragement and admiration. He finished the day with several challenge coins, even one from a SEAL Team commanding officer.
One of the troop chiefs summed up the team’s thoughts on becoming wish granters:
“We do something important for our nation, but now we know why we do it. I’m excited to be part of it.”