News: NC National Guard soldier makes youth's dream come true
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - At the North Carolina National Guard Army Readiness Center here Army Staff Sgt. Ciara Riley spoke to the assembled NCNG soldiers, Greensboro and Winston-Salem police officers about the retirement of Staff Sgt. Devin Sutherland, Aug. 6.
Her voice betrayed a slight choke as a tear welled up in her eye as she recalled the short and distinguished 6-hour career.
She met Sutherland during an impromptu to rubber band war on her first day as a Winston-Salem State student pediatrics nurse interning at Brenner Children's Hospital here.
"I had to help him aim better and he told me about his dream," said Riley.
The dream, being an explosive ordnance disposal specialist. One that would be deferred if not impossible since Sutherland beat the bone cancer that put him in the hospital but the treatment left him with a seriously weakened heart.
"He is so genuine, kind and humble, so amazing," said Riley about her patient's fight with heart failure and cancer.
Little did he know his student nurse was also a NCNG noncommissioned officer serving in the 1452nd Transportation Company with two wartime deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.
It seemed simple enough, coordinate getting bomb disposal equipment, subject matter experts, a medical team in case of emergency, assemble friends and family and do this in two weeks during her annual training and student exams.
"I am so relieved it actually happened," said Riley.
With all the expertise that an Army noncommissioned officer is expected to possess, she began making a dream come true.
A quick check of 11-years of contacts in the NCNG found an EOD tech who could train Sutherland for a day.
"How could you not help . . . it makes you feel good," said Sgt. 1st Class Stewart Stevens, an EOD technician with the NCNG's 430th Ordinance Company, headquartered in Washington, N.C.
Stevens had the talent but a new problem arose. Sutherland health now prevented travel to the 430th headquarters in Washington, N.C. Riley needed to find locally the specialized equipment including remote controlled robots, X-ray cameras and armored bomb suits used in EOD.
"I felt like we hit a wall," said Riley.
A friend of Riley got her in contact with the Winston-Salem Police Department and they provided all the needed equipment for the training and invited the Greensboro K-9 unit to provide a bomb detecting dog and handler.
These and many other details worked out through planning, friends, effort and luck. Letters of support from other city and state EOD teams, more than a dozen patches and ceremonial coins from police, military and first responders across the nation.
"Everybody came together," said Riley.
One week after meeting Sutherland for the first time as a nurse, Riley visited him in the hospital in full camouflage uniform and told him the plan to be a "soldier for a day."
"His face just light up, he was so excited," said Riley.
A full day awaited Pvt. Sutherland with his ceremonial enlistment, promotion and retirement from the NCNG, strapping on 100 pounds of body armor, operating robots to search for simulated explosives and rendering safe a dummy mail bomb.
"It was overwhelming, I never imagined anything like this when I was in the hospital," said Sutherland.
This work, NC National Guard soldier makes youth's dream come true, by SFC Robert Jordan and SGT Leticia Samuels, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.