MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO --
When 11-year-old Riley Lamberson first thought about what he’d want for his special wish, he knew that spending a day at Disneyland wasn’t going to satisfy his needs.
Instead, he spent July 23 at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., with a handful of Marine Corps drill instructors, pilots and aircrew. Riley has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and this was his wish which came true through efforts coordinated by the Make-a-Wish Foundation of San Diego and the Marines.
During his day-long visit, Riley, along with several of his family members, visited Weapons and Field Training Battalion at Edson Range and Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton. Their trip from Oologah, Okla., offered Riley and his family the chance to participate in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, use an indoor simulated marksmanship trainer and see firsthand where Marine recruits eat, sleep and train. During the latter half of the day, the Lamberson’s flew above the base in a UH-1Y Huey and CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter for a brief aerial tour.
According to Stefanie Munoz, the San Diego Make-a-Wish coordinator who worked with the Lamberson’s before their visit to California, this was a surprise event that Riley would not soon forget.
“The Marines are the toughest,” Riley said. “They are unique in what they do.”
Riley first tested positive for cystic fibrosis by doctors at six months old. According to Riley’s father, Aaron Lamberson, having cystic fibrosis makes these children fighters. In his first years after being diagnosed, Riley once asked his dad why God gave him his terminal disease. Aaron simply replied, “Because God thinks you are tough enough to handle it.”
That fighting spirit was evident to some of the Marines who escorted the Lamberson’s. Riley showed an aggressive and instinctive fighting style during his participation in MCMAP and demonstrated familiarity in handling modified weapons during his visit to the ISMT.
“Riley was definitely motivated,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Hager, routing chief for WFTB, and a St. Louis, Mo., native. “He was very disciplined, polite and courteous. If Riley was able to enlist, he would be an outstanding Marine.”
One of the highlights of the trip, for the family, was being able to ride in the helicopters. Before the flight, the pilots and aircrew gave them a brief overview of the UH-1Y Huey and CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters. For Maj. Chris Chown, a pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, this was an opportunity to help make a difference in a child’s life.
“I know how events like this can really stick in a child’s memory. 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,” said Chown, a Herndon, Va., native.
After the helicopter tour, Riley also felt the pilots’ effort was worthwhile.
“I really loved the helicopter ride because at one point, I felt like I was floating in mid air and then all of a sudden we just dropped,” Riley said.
Unfortunately for Riley, becoming a Marine is not a goal he will reach. Yet despite his son’s battle with cystic fibrosis, Aaron said Riley has made a decision that this disease will not stop him from living his life to the fullest and because of this he has been drawn to the Marines for their strength and courage. In short, Riley just loves the Marines.