By Capt. Angel Jackson-Gillepsie, FORSCOMFebruary 11, 2013
FORT HOOD, Texas (Feb. 11, 2013) -- Deciding on a career can be a difficult decision some make very late in life, but for 9-year-old Neil Sawh of Houston, there's nothing he wants more than to be a Soldier.
The 1st Squadron, 7th "Garryowen" Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, gave Neil Sawh, a fourth grader from Houston, the chance to be a Cavalry Soldier for a day, Feb. 8, here.
Neil was diagnosed with a rare strain of Muscular Dystrophy at the age of 7 and he received the opportunity of a lifetime when his parents surprised him with a visit to Fort Hood.
"I told him, 'you're (going to) have to look out,'" said Nelini Sawh, Neil's mother. "'They're going to be clues along the way. Let's see if you can figure out where we're going.'"
Nelini said as soon as Neil saw the sign for Fort Hood; he was excited and spoke at the top of his voice.
Neil said, "Fort Hood! We're going to the Army base!"
San Francisco native Lt. Col. Jay Miseli, commander of Garryowen, said there was no better way to get Neil involved than to incorporate him into the already scheduled Garryowen Games.
"The bottom line is, we saw this as the perfect opportunity for Neil to see what Soldiers do and experience it firsthand," Miseli said.
Neil appeared to be very shy and quiet, but opened up while on the obstacle course.
"Let's go Apache," Neil shouted.
Assisted by Miseli, Neil went alongside the Soldiers of Garryowen's Troop A, and cheered them on as the troop completed the course with the fastest time of 16 minutes, 57 seconds.
During a ceremony to recognize the winners of Garryowen Games, Miseli enlisted Neil into the military as an honorary member of Garryowen. Neil also received spurs, a Stetson, an Army Combat Uniform and was named deputy squadron commander for the day, where he was allowed to help Miseli make decisions.
"The thing I enjoyed most was watching him have this experience," Nelini said. "I really enjoyed how everyone was just so friendly they came up to his level and shook his hand. They treated him like one of their own."
Neil's day as a Soldier didn't end with the Garryowen Games ceremony. He was also given the opportunity to explore the U.S. Army Mission Support Battalion's Special Operations Semi, a rolling exhibit depicting Army Special Forces Soldiers at work around the globe.
Inside the semi, Neil flew a simulated helicopter. He also tested the Immersa Dome display where he watched a video which submerged him in the sights, sounds and smells of Army Special Operations Soldiers' various types of training.
Neil and his father, Nevin Sawh, tested the ground mobility vehicle, a team simulator where the driver uses monitors to maneuver through a city while avoiding obstacles and the gunner wears a helmet with a display screen to identify and engage enemy targets.
Nelini said Soldiers are Neil's idols and he's always wanted to join the Army.
"He has no other dream," said Nelini. "That's it -- to be a Soldier."
Nelini said she hopes there's a cure for the disease in Neil's lifetime that will allow him to join the military. She describes Neil as caring, thoughtful, compassionate and patriotic.
"'If I'm not a Soldier, I'm not (going) to do anything else with my life,'" Nelini stated that Neil said about possible careers other than the military. "'I'm just going to stay home.'"
Nelini explained she doesn't know why Neil has such a fascination with the military and she said she thought he might grow out of it.
"I really haven't been able to pinpoint why he's so interested in the military," Nelini explained. "He's just very proud and wants to be able to serve in the military and be able to defend his country."
Nelini said she teaches Neil to work hard and never give up and she hopes being a Soldier for a day gives him motivation and determination.
Being in a wheelchair and losing his ability to walk hasn't stopped Neil, Nelini explained.
"He always tells me on his 18th birthday he's not going to have a party, he's going to go down and he's (going to) enlist himself," Nelini said.
When asked why he wants to be a Soldier, Neil stated, "I just always wanted to be one."
Nelini said the one thing she always wants Neil to remember is, no matter how hard things get to never give up.
"I think the Army and the military is just a good symbol of that because you guys work so hard and do so much for our country and you never give up," Nelini explained. "So I'm glad that he has the military and the Army as an idol."