“Ready to lead, ready to follow, never quit.” It is the motto of the US Navy SEALs, but for eight-year-old Ben of Bloomsburg, PA., it hits right on the home front. Throughout his battle with intractable epilepsy, Ben has endured many trying times. Despite that, he was ready to train for combat. With the help of Make-A-Wish® Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia, Benjamin fulfilled his aspiration to get down and dirty with this special breed of warriors.
After morning reveille, Ben reported for duty and was escorted onto the Naval Base Coronado, in San Diego, CA. Its 5,500 yards of Pacific Ocean and bayside beachfront is used for training the best of the best, which Ben was about to become. He was welcomed by LT Christine Gargan, who gave him a briefing on what his official training would entail. He was swiftly changed out of his civilian wear into an authentic, camouflage uniform worn by SEAL training students. Garbed in his new gear, Ben and his family enjoyed a short video about the Navy SEALs. He was ready to tackle whatever they braved him to do.
Because of his condition, Ben is used to facing daily trials and challenges. Although, this time, it wasn’t an ordinary obstacle. As Ben walked on to the grinder, the asphalt area where trainees perform their work-outs, several Navy SEALs instructors approached him with a challenge. The crowd of SEALs cheered with enthusiasm as Ben performed some impressive PT.
Following his orders by the instructors, Ben was escorted by his SEAL buddy, NSW Center’s Command Master Chief Jody McIntyre, to get a tour of the base. Ben had the opportunity to see the array of armory used by its skilled marksman. He was even given special night vision goggles, giving him a look on the dark side of the tide.
Next, it was time to tackle the obstacle course. Just like in his own life, he climbed hurdles, found strength, stood tall and never gave up. Ben’s brother confronted the obstacle course right by his side and there was a rally of supporters at the finish line. They all stood and cheered as Ben defeated the force of the course.
To conclude his training, Ben was surrounded by a group of US Navy SEALs and was celebrated for his wish to enlist. He was pinned as an exclusive, Navy SEALs “honorary frogman.” Benjamin was gracious to meet the brave men and women who proudly serve our country and was honored to drill with them.
By having his wish granted to train with the US Navy SEALs, Ben was finally able to feel as strong as he is on the inside. He now knew that, just like those who wear boots and dog tags, everyone fights their own battle. This trip was the perfect retreat to finally set his worries “at ease.”