CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Marines with 1st Explosive Ordnance Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group, and members of the Make-A-Wish Foundation came together to help make a young boy’s dream a reality aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 25, 2015. A brave young man, James Gallant of Poway, Calif., has recently been diagnosed with brain cancer and thanks to his family, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and a group of 1st MLG Marines; he got to realize his dream of being one of the few. James is soon to be 16 years old and looks optimistically towards serving his country. His parents say he has always been interested in the military. “James has loved the military since he was two years old and always wanted to be a part of it,” said Sarah Silverstein, James’ Mother. James also enjoys being outdoors. His mother said he loves to go camping and swimming and he likes to collect shoes. Sarah said that James’ diagnosis has made a huge impact on the family, but left opportunity to make family their biggest priority. “Things have changes a lot since he was diagnosed, we spend more time as a family doing board games, watching movies and swimming in the pool,” said Sarah. “During this whole thing we really just learned how to live in the moment and enjoy our time together.”
This time spend a day with his family and a group of EOD technicians, exploring what they do and some of the equipment they use to complete their mission. The EOD Marines met James and his family at the front gate and picked him up in an EOD response vehicle, complete with flashing lights and a siren.
“We wanted to show James some of the things that we do as EOD [technicians] and let him experience it all first-hand,” said Staff Sgt. Kacie Worley, an EOD team leader.
About 25 Marines came to volunteer and were excited to be a part of making this wish come true. When he arrived, James was presented with a set of Marine Corps desert utilities, complete with name tapes, so he could be in the proper uniform for his experience.
To start with, the EOD technicians toured James through their library of ordnance and tools they’ve accumulated over the years and answered any questions he had. He was particularly interested the tools used to keep the EOD Marines safe, like their iconic bomb suit and TALON robot. After the library tour, James got to see some of the vehicles that Marines use in deployed environments; specifically the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected truck. After a few laps around the complex in the MRAP they had a mission for James.
He was given a crash course on how to operate the bomb disposing robot and instructed to use it to move a faux Improvised Explosive Device to a safe location. He operated the robot like he’d been training for years. James’ father said his son was particularly interested in EOD during his two years of Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and this has been a unique experience for him. “This is the area he was really focused on and now he has an inside perspective,” said Josh Silverstein, James’ Father. “I think this is going to drive him more towards what he really wants to do in life.”
After his experience of being an EOD technician for a few hours, the Marines thought it was only right to present James with his own EOD badge. Called before the commanding officer in front of a formation of Marines, James was read his citation and presented his badge, which was pinned to his uniform by his mother. James’ mother expressed deep gratitude for the efforts the Marines went through to make this happen and said her son called it the best day of his life.
“I think it was all amazing … he really enjoyed being a part of something and I’m happy for him,” said Sarah. In hopes of changing a young man’s life; the Marines themselves learned a lesson on determination and strength and walked away with a sense of pride. “The experience was incredible, he has an amazing family and just seems like an awesome kid,” said Worley. “I hope he had a great time and we were able to show him what we do.” James has a tough road ahead of him, but that’s never stopped a Marine from trying before and there’s no inclination he will be any different.