Fort Bragg Soldiers partner with Make-a-Wish Foundation to bring joy to Florida youth
September 24, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The Make-A-Wish Foundation is known for granting the wishes of children with life-threatening disabilities and diseases. The Fort Bragg community recently took the opportunity to play host to a 14-year-old Florida boy who suffers from muscular dystrophy.
Ryan Beaulieu, an eighth grader, and his Family, which included mom Tina Martinez, sister Rayna, 6, and grandmother Roberta Woodard, traveled from Fort Pierce, Fla. Ryan and his Family spent three days visiting units, being promoted to major general, lunching with the commander and receiving many gifts, but most importantly, Ryan fulfilled his dream - being a Soldier.
Ryan's wish began on Sept. 15, when the Family boarded a limousine at their home in Fort Pierce and traveled to the nearby airport.
"I remember the stunned look on Ryan's face as the limousine pulled up," Martinez said. "As we headed to the airport, Ryan looked at me as asked, 'is this a dream'' I said, 'no' and he asked if I could pinch him to make sure he wasn't dreaming."
Nearly two hours later, they arrived in Fayetteville, and headed to Fort Bragg.
On the morning of Sept. 16, Ryan began his military "career" as five humvees pulled up at the Landmark Inn to serve as the Family's personal transportation for the day. Their first visit included at trip to the range area, where Ryan observed Soldiers as they participated in live-fire exercise.
Following that event, he traveled to the outskirts of one of the drop zones, where he watched paratroopers exit a C-17 Globemaster aircraft. After watching the jump for about 15 minutes, Ryan and his Family traveled across Fort Bragg to the Theater Support Command area, where TSC Soldiers gave Ryan a hero's welcome as Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Harris pushed his wheelchair through the rows of cheering Soldiers who lined both sides of the sidewalk in front of the TSC headquarters building.
Beaulieu was given his own access identification card, and in the TSC's conference room, had a video teleconference meeting with Maj. Gen. Kenneth S. Dowd, TSC commanding general who is currently deployed to Kuwait. Dowd had a member of his staff to read the promotion orders as he promoted Beaulieu to the honorary rank of Major General and told him that he was in charge of the command for the day.
The first order of the newly-promoted major general, was for the entire TSC to do some push-ups.When asked how many, he replied, "I don't know, about 20, I guess."
Martinez said she was thankful of the effort Fort Bragg put forth in making her son's wish come true.
"I think when they had him sit at the head of the table and the general promoted him, I could see tears in his eyes and that told me he was very happy," said Martinez.
"Ever since he was about 3 or 4 years-old, Ryan has always wanted to be in the Army," she said. "Even as he grew older, he still held on to that dream of becoming a Soldier. But, because of his condition, I explained to him that he probably would not be able to be in the military. Today, his wishes came true and I am so happy for him."
After they departed the TSC area, the Family went to Simmons Army Airfield. Here Ryan took the pilot's seat of the CH-47 Chinook simulator. and his mission was to fly above terrain in Kabul, Afghanistan; Fort Irwin, Calif. and land on the deck of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.
After visiting the airfield, Ryan went to the 82nd Airborne Division Special Troops Battalion dining facility, where the Family had lunch before traveling to the parachute packing facility. At the facility, the parachute riggers demonstrated how several parachutes are packed and deployed, and presented Ryan with unit insignia and red cap, signifying his membership as an honorary parachute rigger.
From there Ryan and Family traveled to the Iron Mike statue, near the XVIII Airborne Corps Headquarters, where Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick, XVIII Abn. Corps and Fort Bragg commander and corps command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Earl Rice presented him with an Iron Mike statue and posed for several photos with the Family. Helmick also invited them to lunch Friday, where they enjoyed Ryan's favorite food - pizza.
Ryan's last stop of the day, was a visit to the 16th Military Police Brigade. The MPs held a K-9 demonstration and allowed him to sit in the patrol car, while explaining the purpose of all of the buttons and switches. They then moved to the 530th MP Bn., where he was again showered with gifts from the command's leadership and Soldiers.
At the end of the day and as Ryan reflected on his visit and his newly-appointed rank, he said there was one thing that he should have done as the "acting" general.
"I should have told everyone to take the rest of the day off," he said.