Cav Soldiers, Make-a-Wish collaborate for ill child
July 30, 2014
FORT HOOD, Texas -- Chances to make wishes are plenty. People wish upon a star. They throw pennies into wishing wells. They even make wishes and blow out birthday candles.
One 1st Cavalry Division child had an unforgettable wish granted on his birthday July 28.
Antonio Laguna got a special birthday present from the military and Central Texas community: an orchard and automated greenhouse.
Soldiers from the 115th Brigade Support Battalion "Muleskinner," 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, along with Make-A-Wish Central and South Texas and local businesses were able to grant Antonio's wish with the support of many others in the community.
The 8-year-old had briefly considered asking for a trip when officials from Make-A-Wish originally approached him.
"His first thought was that he wanted to go to the Great Wall of China and eat grasshoppers," said his mother, Candace Laguna. "But then he asked how long trips last and changed his mind. He said, 'Wishes should last.'"
At the age of 6, Antonio was diagnosed with the rare and life-threatening disease of Rapid-onset Obesity with Hypothalamic dysfunction, Hypoventilation and Autonomic Dysregulation.
ROHHAD affects everything the body is supposed to do naturally -- like weight management, eye focus, bowel movements, breathing, temperature regulation and even psychological behaviors, said Candace. There are 75-cases of the condition world-wide.
Because of his rare condition, the family takes Antonio to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, for treatments. Previous attempts at gardening have failed because of the many trips the family must take, which is why this greenhouse is fully-automated to control temperature and water the plants, even if the family is away, said Frank Laguna, Antonio's father.
"It's a learn-as-you-go process," he said.
Antonio, who must follow a very careful diet, wants to share the orchard and greenhouse to share his love of food and to feed others, Candace said.
"He wants people to come out and plant and pick fruit and vegetables for themselves -- community gardening," she said.
Soldiers of the 115th BSB installed the siding, reflective roofing and large fan on the greenhouse, and performed many other tasks, including mowing, edging, and preparing for Antonio's big day.
Getting everything ready in time came down to the wire.
"I laid awake last night wondering how we would get everything done," said Jessica Robertson of Backbone Valley Nursery, Marble Falls, Texas. "I showed up July 25, and there are 20-plus Soldiers, and everyone's working. It's amazing and makes me proud of my country."
For Muleskinner Soldiers, volunteering was a way to take care of one of their own. Antonio's fatherserved as the armorer for Company B, 115th BSB until his medical retirement in June 2014.
"We won't forget this family," said Command Sgt. Maj. Rocky Carr, 115th BSB. "He will always be a Muleskinner."
It was a rewarding experience for many of the Soldiers.
"It's been emotional," said Spc. Stephanie Swann, an automated logistics specialist with 115th BSB and a native of Los Angeles, California. "We had a couple of us out here crying, but it's a great feeling overall being able to help this little boy with his wish."
The family has set up a Facebook page for those who want to follow Antonio and the family: https://www.facebook.com/SuperToniosFight