By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Black
SAN DIEGO (NNS) – Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Center and Make-A-Wish San Diego teamed up July 24 to grant one kid’s wish of becoming a Navy SEAL.
Ben is eight years old, from Bloomsburg, Penn., and is diagnosed with intractable epilepsy. Upon arrival at the NSW Center quarterdeck, he was quickly changed out of his civilian attire, into a new set of woodland camouflage worn by students during SEAL training.
Dressed in his new uniform, Ben and his family watched a brief video about the Navy SEALs, while his excitement grew for the obstacle course later to come.
“Ben has a dream to be a Navy SEAL, and on his own time trains to be ready for the SEALs.” says Katie Shahzade, Make-A-Wish Foundation, wish coordinator. “He studies up on them and reads books about the SEALs and just loves it. When they asked what his wish was, he didn’t hesitate to say he wanted to visit the SEALs. “
As Ben walked on to the grinder of NSW Center, approximately 15 Navy SEAL instructors approached him with a challenge. After a few push-ups, Ben got up to their cheers and hand shakes.
Ben’s SEAL buddy was NSW Center’s Command Master Chief Jody McIntyre, who followed Ben through his one of kind experiences.
“These things are always great,” said McIntyre. “It is great to bring a smile to a kid’s face, and we also get something in return. Whenever the instructor’s staff gets an opportunity to see kids like this, it brings joy to them as well.”
While in the armory, Ben was able to see the many weapons used by SEAL operators, from small arms to machine guns that launch grenades. Given night vision goggles, Ben got to look through the eyes of SEALs operating at night.
This is not the first time a child chose to come to NSW for their wish, and Shahzade says that the Navy and Make-A-Wish San Diego have a strong partnership.
“Our mission is to bring hope, strength and joy to wish kids and their families,” says Shahzade. “By providing them experiences like this we are able to help them fulfill some of their dreams and aspirations while removing them from the medical world, where they are there 24/7.”
Ben got to face the obstacle course and surf passage with his brother. His favorite part of the event was the obstacle course, he later told his parents.
For the finale, Ben was pinned as an “honorary frogman” (Navy SEAL), an honor reserved for only a select few. His mother says that he has been wearing his battle dress uniform every day, neatly pressing them to have them ready for inspection the next day.
“One night, Ben was taking a bath and I stepped out for a few minutes to grab something – when I came back into the bathroom, Ben was under water with his eyes closed,” says Ben’s mom. “My heart stopped and I ran to pull him out. When I did, his eyes flung open and he said ‘Mom! I’m practicing holding my breath for Navy SEAL training!’ The experience was hilarious and frightening all at once!”
His mom says that Ben has a 50% chance of out growing the disorder, and they are crossing their fingers for him.
“He knows he isn’t like everyone else but we told him the meds give him super powers and make him strong,” says Mom. “He works out every day and is determined to become a Navy SEAL.”