Wind rushes in through the Huey’s open doors. From his center seat, Riley feels the air tug at him as the helicopter rolls into a steep banked turn. They’re sensations unlike anything he’s ever experienced.
The smile on Riley’s face reminds his new Marine Corps friends of their first helicopter flight. It’s part of their everyday work – but for 11-year-old Riley, it’s a wish come true.
A Life of Challenge
Riley was diagnosed with pulmonary disease. It’s a condition he’ll have to manage his entire life and it prevents him from joining the ranks of those he admires most – the U.S. Marine Corps.
Make-A-Wish® offered Riley the chance to wish for anything. And he wished to be a Marine for a day. Though he admires every branch of the military, Riley sees a toughness in the Marine Corps that sets it apart.
Riley’s father, Aaron, says his son displays the same brand of toughness every single day in the face of a difficult medical condition. A Make-A-Wish experience can provide that positive edge for kids like Riley to stay strong.
Marines Feel the Impact of Granting a Wish
Marine Staff Sergeant Jeremy Hager noticed something about Riley immediately – all the qualities that make an “outstanding Marine.”
“Riley was definitely motivated,” he said. “He was very disciplined, polite and courteous.”
Hager was one of many people who pulled together to grant Riley’s wish. Drill instructors, pilots and aircrews at Camp Pendleton gave Riley the ultimate first-hand look at their lives. They arranged activities that are normally off-limits to everyone outside the military.
“I see how events like this can really stick in a child’s memory,” Major Chris Chown, a pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267, told a Marine Corps journalist. “Anytime you are able to come through on a child’s wish, the expression you see on their face makes all the hard work worthwhile.”
One Chance to Change a Life
What is a typical day at the office for Chown is a once-in-a-lifetime event for Riley. Living with pulmonary disease prevents him from serving in the military. But his wish gave him something to look forward to. And now that his wish is over, he has incredible memories that overshadow his daily challenges.
“I really loved the helicopter ride because at one point, I felt like I was floating,” Riley said. “And then, all of a sudden, we just dropped.” By designating the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, CFC #11375, you can share the power of a wish®.