Wednesday, November 26, 2008

One Wish: Oregon Guard helps cancer survivor realize lifelong dream

Gage Dole is seven years old. Someday he hopes to be a Soldier.

But it’s a dream that has hung in the balance ever since he was stricken with cancer at age three.

After fighting and surviving two bouts with the disease, he met and befriended Staff Sgt. Bill Postels of the Oregon National Guard at a cancer survivors’ camp. After learning of the youth’s dream, the Oregon Soldier helped make Gage’s dream a reality—at least for a day.

On Sept. 6, the Oregon National Guard’s 41 Special Troops Battalion at Camp Withycombe made Gage Dole one of their Soldiers.

Sgt. 1st Class Jason Phelan arranged for Gage to participate in a hands-on weapons demonstration, and to meet with a combat medic. Gage also toured the base in a M-1117 Armored Security Vehicle.

“Gage has an infectious personality and people and really think his outlook on life is better than a lot of us who are adults,” said Phelan.

Sgt. Michael Richards, a heavy equipment operator for 41st STB, taught Gage how each of the weapons worked. During the lesson Gage sat behind a 240 Bravo Machine Gun with a huge smile on his face.

And when Gage saw the security vehicle, he exclaimed, “It looks like one of the transformers from the movie!”

More than 20 Soldiers from 41 STB helped show Gage what it’s like to be an Oregon Guardsman. In return the Soldiers got the satisfaction of providing a small, brave boy with a lot of joy, Postels said.

“I’ll tell you I think those Soldiers got as much out of it as he did,” Postels said. “There sure was something about him. He doesn’t quit, and that’s the warrior ethos they try and instill in all of us.”

Gage’s father, whose birthday fell on the same day, said the look on his son’s face was the best birthday present he could have ever received.

Perhaps the most poignant moment came when Sgt. Lonnie Paradis removed his own Combat Infantry Badge, and pinned it on Gage’s sweatshirt. Paradis told him that he’d earned it during his fight with cancer.

“Since he came here the Soldiers haven’t quit talking about him,” said Postels. “He’s an awesome kid.”

The above story was written by Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson of the Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office. Spc. Josh Hudson of the 115th MPAD also contributed to this story.

To follow Gage's progress, and to read more about his fight with cancer, visit his site here.
My personal thoughts: On the day before Thanksgiving, this story should remind us of the many things we should be thankful for.
-- Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon National Guard New Media Manager

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