This was the day Dalton had waited for – and now fear and doubt hovered over him. He wasn't feeling his best because of his ongoing struggle with leukemia. Why today, of all days? What if he wasn't up to what awaited him during his wish to be a Marine?
Somehow, though, every concern started to fade when Dalton pulled on his combat utility uniform at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. It was the first step of a Make-A-Wish® experience that had extra meaning because of his uncle and grandfather who served in the military.
“I’ve wanted to be a Marine ever since my uncle got out of the Marine Corps,” Dalton said. “I don’t know what it is; I just love the Marine Corps.”
Facing Obstacles the Marine Way
Staff Sgt. Keith C. Becker, chief instructor trainer, Weapons and Field Training Battalion, Edson Range, took charge of Dalton's training. Becker started Dalton with martial arts training. From there, he moved to the Obstacle Course, which his Marine hosts call the O Course.
And that's where Becker truly saw the change that he made in Dalton's life. He saw a boy begin the day struggling with fatigue … as Dalton faced the O Course, though, Becker witnesses his metamorphosis into a determined survivor. Every obstacle was a metaphor for Dalton facing leukemia. He overcame everything the O Course put in front of him, even those that he couldn't conquer on the first try. He just went back and tried again until he triumphed.
“He is what the Marine Corps needs,” Becker said. “He has the heart and the drive that I think every Marine should have.”
Marines Hit the Mark for Dalton
The rest of the day was a bit more relaxed, with tours of the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer and the Assault Amphibious School. Dalton received a coveted green shooting jacket embroidered with his name, a jacket which normally only the marksmanship instructors are allowed to wear.
Dalton was in for an extra surprise: The Marines had him board an Amphibious Assault Vehicle for a ride – he was in for a wild time as the driver maneuvered the vehicle over all the types of obstacles it's built to handle.
“Riding in the AAV was the thing I liked most about today,” Dalton said. “I didn’t know what to expect coming here today, but I had a lot of fun.”
Every Marine who met Dalton was part of an event that could change his life. The confidence he rediscovered on the O Course and the time each Marine made for him could be just what he needs to put leukemia in his past. Today, he is in remission – and thinking often about his day as a Marine.