U.S. Coast Guard District 14 Hawaii


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Coast Guard crew grants terminally ill child Christmas wish


Story by Chief Petty Officer Kurt Fredrickson

Coast Guard grants Christmas wish for terminally ill child HONOLULU – For more than 40 years the Coast Guard Cutter Rush has answered the needs of the service and the nation, traversing the globe from Vietnam to the Arctic. On Tuesday it was called on to fulfill a unique request – to grant a Christmas wish for a six-year-old with a terminal illness.

Jacob Butierries was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy when he was just four months old. Doctors gave Jacob between four months and one year to live. Son of Petty Officer 1st Class Dennis Butierries, an aviation electronics technician stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point in Hawaii, Jacob was born into a Coast Guard family with more than 30 years of service. Jacob’s grandfather previously served aboard Rush as the engineering officer and retired after 33 years.

Visiting the base, Dennis would explain to his son that the Rush is where his grandfather worked. The stories fascinated Jacob who promptly nicknamed the cutter “papa’s battleship."

“For at least two years he wanted to go on grandpa’s ship,” his father explained. “He doesn’t ask for much, so when he does, being able to give it to him means a lot. He’s been asking for two Christmases in a row.”

For Jacob, the chance to visit the Rush where his grandfather served was a once in a lifetime experience that took coordination between the Coast Guard work-life staff at Base Honolulu and the crew of Rush.

“There is nothing more important than family, and the Coast Guard as an organization takes pride in helping others, especially when it comes to our own,” said Cmdr. Michael Gesele, Cutter Rush executive officer. “Most children never get the opportunity to visit their grandparents’ workplace, so to assist the work-life staff in making Jacob’s Christmas wish come true was the least we could do for he and his family this holiday season.”

Accompanied by his sister Abby and parents Dennis and Lori, Jacob crossed the brow onto Rush where he was met by members of the crew and the executive officer who welcomed them aboard with the presentation of unit ball caps.

Although unable to walk for himself, his father carried Jacob to the bridge where he sat at the helm of “papa’s battleship." Beaming with excitement, it was clear this was the moment he had been waiting for. They then carefully navigated the ladder wells below decks, where Jacob as able to see his grandfather’s former office and bed. The tour concluded with a reception in the officers’ wardroom where Jacob and Abby were given a few early Christmas gifts.

Jacob’s father noted that the assistance provided to make Jacob’s wish come true was not something they could have done alone and the family’s appreciation goes out to all those involved.

“For people who work on a boat it’s not a big deal, but for him it’s a big deal,” Dennis explained. “This is going to stay with him for a long time.”

Through the eyes of child something a simple as a Coast Guard cutter becomes something more than ship and a crew. For Jacob it was a chance to fulfill a simple wish. To walk the decks where his grandfather served and to see the inside of the “battleship” he had only seen from shore. The crew recently concluded their final patrol aboard Rush, which is scheduled to be decommissioned in February. Yet without ever getting underway it has added one more notable feat to its long list of accomplishments; bringing joy to a child and making a Christmas wish come true.

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