In a unique case of courage with a foe that comes full circle – Michael, 28, from Beaver Falls, PA, is a wish kid warrior who still continues to brave the toughest battles. As a teenager, Michael was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and faced an arduous road to recovery. Suddenly, chemotherapy, radiation treatment and medications became his new normal, and Michael’s after-high school plans – to join the United States Military – had to be put on hold. That’s when Make-A-Wish® reported for duty, granting his wish to train with the United States Navy SEALs. Normally, a military wish is chosen because a child’s medical condition will not allow them to serve – but Michael was the exception. Now, 11 years later, Michael carries his wish close to heart, right next to his dog-tags.
Flashback to February of 2005: Michael and his family flew from PA to CA, destination: Naval Base Coronado in San Diego. From the time he was young, Michael admired the valor that came with such vigorous training and dreamed of wearing the uniform. Thanks to Make-A-Wish®
Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia, Michael suited up for combat in authentic camouflage and joined this unique breed of warriors for a special week of intense training. Michael took part in artillery exercises, ran obstacle courses and even drove a military boat at 60 mph.
Following his wish experience at Coronado Naval Base, Michael was determined to serve. “I didn’t want it to hold me back,” Michael said, talking about his fight with cancer. Although, most military branches would either not accept him or make him wait seven years past his last treatment. “My buddies in school would talk about how all these military recruiters were calling them, employing them to join. Meanwhile, I was calling the recruiters, and as soon as they found out I had cancer, they stopped returning my calls.” Instead, Michael chose to attend Norwich University, a military college in Vermont, with ROTC representation so he could join the Army Reserves once his post-treatment time was up. “Then in my second semester of my freshman year, during the war in Iraq, there was a waiver policy change. I was accepted into the Army Reserves and became a part of the Vermont guard, infantry unit.”
While enlisted in the Army Reserves, Michael pursued a degree in construction management and continued on to serve as a game commissioner and Pennsylvania State Trooper. While traveling, Michael met the Captain of the 19th
Special Forces Group, National Guard. “I asked him, ‘what will it take to become a Green Beret?’” Michael said, noting that “the Army Special Forces is the closest thing I can get to my Navy SEAL wish.”
So last July, Michael was a part of 14 individuals who tried out to join – only five made it through, and Michael was one of them. That following January, he went through the Special Forces Selection and Assessment Course, taught at Fort Bragg, NC. Not long after he completed the course, Michael got the incredible news – he excelled at each assessment, making him a specially selected member of the forces.
As Michael looks back on his journey in the military community, he realizes that his wish was a driving force behind his determination and courage. “After I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, Make-A-Wish gave me hope and lifted my spirits when I was looking down a dark hole,” explained Michael. That experience was something that he carried near and dear to his heart throughout all of his trials to come. “Make-A-Wish helped me keep my eye on the prize. Now I get to do something similar to what I watched the SEALs do on my wish – it’s truly humbling.”
When Michael was a teenager, he was sent off to a war that he didn’t enlist in – that was cancer. Now, Michael is continuing to inspire, taking on another fight and serving our great nation.