News: US military makes Suisun City boy’s wish come true
Story by Capt. Jason Sweeney
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - The U.S. military helped a little boy’s wishes come true in a big way during a recent tour of Travis Air Force Base.
D’Marrion Otten, 11, who has Down syndrome and is partially deaf, arrived at Travis on Aug. 15 with his family. Decked out in a U.S. Navy SEAL uniform, he was greeted by members of all five branches of the U.S. military.
Suddenly, just as his tour of the base was getting under way, the flight line was overrun by bad guys, played by Airmen, Marines, Sailors and California Army National Guard Soldiers.
A call went out for help and a superhero arrived on the scene. Badly outnumbered, the superhero asked D’Marrion for assistance. The superhero, played by interpreter Azora Telford, communicated with D’Marrion using American Sign Language.
D’Marrion and Telford joined forces, jumped into a Humvee and were driven across the flight line to a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy transport airplane. D’Marrion and his superhero sidekick then ran through the massive aircraft fighting off bad guys before getting a chance to check out the cockpit with the pilots.
The crime-fighting duo left the C-5 in a Humvee and boarded a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter which flew them to nearby Solano Community College where D’Marrion’s little league coach had been taken hostage. D’Marrion and Telford jumped out of the helicopter, raced across a field and fought through a slew of bad guys, played by deputies from the Solano County Sheriff’s Office and police officers from the Benicia Police Department. D’Marrion freed his coach and saved the day to cheers from his family and onlookers.
D’Marrion then flew back to Travis where U.S. Air Force 60th Air Mobility Wing Commander Col. Corey Martin awarded him a medal for exceptional bravery.
D’Marrion was all smiles as he stood in the back of the C-5 looking out at a formation of Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who rendered him a sharp salute. The service members then lined up to shake his hand and give him unit patches, T-shirts, plaques and coins.
“He has so much love for the military and people in uniform,” said D’Marrion’s mother, Michelle Brown, from Suisun City. “This is a new breakthrough for him. It’s amazing because this is actually the first time D’Marrion has expressed something that he wanted to do. It’s amazing that he was able to embrace this.”
The tour and day of crime fighting were the result of a meeting last year with D’Marrion’s family and representatives from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Make-A-Wish grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.
When D’Marrion expressed a wish to fly on a helicopter with a superhero, the people at Make-A-Wish began making calls.
Make-A-Wish got in touch with Tech. Sgt. Michael Turner at Travis Air Force Base who then contacted California Army National Guard State Aviation Operations Officer Maj. Dan Anderson.
Anderson, having a background in aviation and familiarity working in a multi-agency environment, jumped in and took the lead on the project. He got to work calling his many contacts at the various agencies he partners with. After more than a month and a half of planning, the big day for D’Marrion came together with flying colors.
“So many branches coming together to make this special wish happen was truly inspiring,” said Lisa McIntire, program manager for Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area. “Working with Maj. Daniel Anderson from the National Guard was amazing, and he was very organized in planning for the wish. He is a passionate leader with a huge heart."
In total, the California Army National Guard, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, the Benicia Police Department, Solano County Community College and the California Office of Emergency Services all played a part in making D’Marrion’s wish come true.
“My job here as state aviation operations officer, I’ve built a lot of relationships with all these agencies,” Anderson said. “All these guys, being mothers and fathers and wanting to help out on behalf of their agencies, wanted to get involved.”
Anderson said the event exercised interoperability between agencies and helped establish relationships.
“This event is a reflection and demonstration of the California National Guard’s community roots,” Anderson said. “It’s an example of our desire to support our great state and its citizens. It’s awesome to work for an organization like this that loves to give back.”
Solano County Sheriff’s Deputy Larry Duffield said the event benefited not only D’Marrion but also everyone who participated.
“This is just one of those things that allows you to give back and feel good internally,” he said.
“I definitely wanted to be a part of D’Marrion’s wish,” said D’Marrion’s little league coach, Master Sgt. Paul Ragan, with the U.S. Air Force’s 60th Civil Engineer Squadron. “D’Marrion is an outstanding ballplayer, an outstanding person. You couldn’t ask for a better hero.”
Before leaving Travis for a big lunch at a local restaurant, D’Marrion said through a sign language interpreter that he was not scared at all on the helicopter flight.
“It was fun,” he said. “It was beautiful in the helicopter.”
With his crime-fighting work done, D'Marrion gave the service members around him a big smile, a thumbs-up and then headed out.