Camp Pendleton - it's a place familiar to many United States Marine Corps personnel.
Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo speaks during the morning presentation of the colors. Today, he introduces Alisa. She has one wish – to be a Marine. As his words echo, every Marine applauds.
Alisa is used to things going wrong. From being diagnosed with a brain tumor to hearing she had two months to live to re-learning how to walk and talk … she is all too familiar with challenges. She has overcome every obstacle just to stand in front of the Marines at Camp Pendleton.
Connecting to the Marine Mission
Today, though, everything will go right at Camp Pendleton. The Marines will do for Alisa as they’ve done for many other Make-A-Wish kids: They’ll make time in their schedule and their hearts. They will find in Alisa’s wish a renewed and stronger sense of appreciation for the people who serve alongside them, and for the principles they uphold.
Her experience begins with a uniform and the rank insignia of a Private First Class. From there, she has a choice for her day at Camp Pendleton: the easy way, or the Marine way.
“I wanted to get dirty and see how they do everything and experience it,” Alisa tells a local newspaper.
A Day in a Marine’s Life
Alisa timed her visit perfectly. Today, a class of recruits will win the right to call themselves Marines. This rite of passage establishes a bond between all the men and women who wear the eagle, globe and anchor.
The Marines arrange for Alisa to receive an “Honorable Mention” plaque during the graduation ceremony. It’s a memento that is sure to be among her most-treasured possessions. They also give her a drill instructor’s campaign hat and a shooting jacket.
And Alisa is the first person to use the new Camp Pendleton virtual activity and martial arts rooms.
Earning Her Honors
Alisa finds something more important than the activities and souvenirs, though. The way Marines react to her wish moves her, and becomes her favorite part of the experience.
During her visit, she meets retired Sgt. Major Frank Cirou. He served in WWII, and he has words of encouragement for her ongoing fight against brain cancer.
“We all battle our own wars and you’re battling one of the highest ones,” he says. Sgt. Major Cirou also offers Alisa a challenge coin from his collection. Each one symbolizes his long years of service – but he believes Alisa has earned one for her spirit. The one he offers bears his name and photo, and Alisa keeps it with her every day.
Today, Alisa feels better. She has overcome setbacks before – should another rise, her experience with the Marines makes her feel like she won’t face it alone.