By Elaine WilsonSeptember 28, 2007
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, Sept. 28, 2007) - The 10-year-old son of a wounded warrior lost almost a foot of hair Sept. 11, while those around him gained a deeper appreciation for the spirit of giving.
Gabriel Macias donated 10 inches of his hair to Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization that provides hairpieces to children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.
The haircut, which took place at the Warrior and Family Support Center, followed more than three barber-free years, which he dedicated to his great-grandmother, Rose, and his father, Staff Sgt. Juan Macias, who is recovering from a shoulder wound received in Iraq at Brooke Army Medical Center.
"When Gabriel was seven, his great-grandmother was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer," said Staff Sgt. Macias. "During her treatment, she lost her hair. Around the same time, the sister of a friend of his from school got cancer and lost her hair too."
Gabriel learned about Locks of Love through his friends at school.
At just seven years old, "I decided to grow my hair in honor of my great-grandmother," said Gabriel, who lives in Ontario, Calif., with his mother, Rachel, and two siblings.
"I was so touched that my grandmother impacted him to the point that he would do this," Rachel said.
Rose passed away a few months after her diagnosis, but Gabriel never wavered in his decision. His resolve grew even stronger when his father deployed to Iraq in December 2005.
"He was determined not to cut his hair until I got back," said Staff Sgt. Macias.
"My dad was supposed to get home sooner; I never expected it to grow as long as it did," said Gabriel, referring to his father's more than two-year absence.
Throughout the experience, his friends and family gave him unwavering support, Gabriel said, but there were a few drawbacks to his long locks.
"People who didn't know him sometimes mistook him for a girl," said Rachel. "But that didn't stop him. He just didn't let it get to him because he knew he was doing it for a reason."
Gabriel held off on the cut until Sept. 11. He chose the day both to honor the victims of 9/11 and his great-grandmother and father, who share a Sept. 11 birthday.
Gabriel and his mother flew to Fort Sam Houston to visit Staff Sgt. Macias and to have his first date with the scissors in more than three years.
Vera Canedy, a barber with more than 20 years of experience at the now-closed Officers' Club Barber Shop, was asked to wield the scissors for the occasion. The moment was poignant; her husband, retired Brig. Gen. Charlie Canedy, had recently passed away after a battle with cancer.
One snip of his ponytail, and a more than three-year journey was over for Gabriel.
"It feels good," said Gabriel. "I'm glad I was able to help others."
His parents are understandably proud.
"Not a lot of young kids would do what Gabriel did," Staff Sgt. Macias said. "I'm very proud that a piece of his great-grandmother's kind heart has rubbed off on him."
For more information about Locks of Love, visit http://www.locksoflove.org.
(Elaine Wilson works for the Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office.)