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    LA Fleet Week 2022 Make-A-Wish Visit

    USS Portland (LPD 27) Make-A-Wish Visit at LA Fleet Week

    Photo By Petty Officer 2nd Class Devin Kates | 220526-N-VQ947-1095 LOS ANGELES (May 26, 2022) —Sebastian Medina, left, steers the...... read more read more



    Story by Petty Officer 3rd Class David Negron 

    Navy Region Southwest

    San Pedro, Calif. (May 29, 2022) – In the early morning as the sun rose, a steel visitor to the city cast a long, cool shadow over the outer harbor of San Pedro, California. The enormous Navy vessel, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship named USS Portland (LPD 27), left mouths agape as it towered over visitors during this year’s Los Angeles Fleet Week (LAFW). Meanwhile, six-year-old Sebastian Medina toured the ship under extraordinary circumstances for a truly unforgettable Memorial Day weekend.

    When Sebastian was only eight months old, his parents noticed he was having difficulty with his vision. Sebastian was quickly diagnosed with malignant pilocytic astrocytoma, which meant a tumor deemed inoperable was pressing on his optic nerve. By the time he was two, he would begin various treatments to reduce the tumor which couldn’t be surgically removed.

    Sebastian’s father, Jerry Stoces, a private contractor, said Sebastian is now in remission, but continues to have an implant in his arm to balance hormone levels and regular doctor visits to track updates in his vision.

    During Sebastian’s treatment, Stoces became involved with the Make-A-Wish foundation by organizing trips for other families and only recently got the chance to be on the other side of the equation. Unfortunately, Sebastian’s wish to see America’s Navy first hand was continuously postponed due to the pandemic. But through the office of San Pedro Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Fleet Week Foundation, Sebastian’s wish came true this week during LAFW 2022.

    Now just shy of 4-feet tall with an infectious smile and wearing a miniature flight suit perfect for the occasion, Sebastian stepped aboard the Portland with his family, Saturday, May 28, 2022.

    Commanding officer of the USS Portland, Capt. Matthew Thomas, greeted Sebastian on the quarterdeck with a crew thrilled to have such a special guest.

    “It was an honor to have Sebastian aboard USS Portland,” said Thomas. “A day that we will long remember. Thank you, Sebastian, for choosing to spend your day with us.”

    A warship built to transport Sailors and Marines across the ocean can be an overwhelming place for an adult, but once Sebastian stepped out onto the flight deck and met the unofficial mascot, “Wiley” the scarecrow coyote, he regained his normal inquisitive nature and had lots of questions for the crew.

    “From the moment Sebastian came aboard and saluted the captain, his glowing smile brightened up the entire crew,” said Lt.j.g. Dory Lustig. “It was a beautiful and magical experience to be a child’s hero. He will forever be our shipmate.”

    But his ship visit wasn’t the end of his wish. On Sunday, May 29, Sebastian received a fully unparalleled Fleet Week experience as he and his family, along with his best friend, Joseph Park, visited the Battleship USS Iowa Museum and all of the military units staged around it during the annual expo that resumed this year.

    Beginning with a private tour of the Iowa led by the museum’s CEO and LAFW Foundation President Jonathan Williams, Sebastian saw several exclusive exhibits on the ship including the presidential cabin used by Franklin D. Roosevelt in World War II and climbed inside the ship’s Number One 16-inch gun turret.

    “I hope Sebastian’s visit to Battleship Iowa inspires him to continue dreaming,” said Williams. “When he earns his Navy wings one day, 15 or so years down the road, I hope he comes back to share his story with the next generation of kids touring the Iowa.”

    As he traveled around the rest of the expo, Sebastian met with personnel from the Army, Marine Corps, and Navy, including the 2916 Aviation Battalion, Los Angeles Recruiting Battalion, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Amphibious Construction Battalion One, and Maritime Expeditionary Security Group One. Each stop on his tour gave him the opportunity to talk with pilots, boat operators, and equipment operators, hop inside their vehicles and even operate a remote-controlled ordnance disposal robot.

    The Army’s recruiting trailer with state-of-the-art simulators and VR headsets was a big hit for Sebastian and Joseph, but their personal favorite was the Navy divers of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Three.

    “It was truly an honor to meet Sebastian and his family today,” said Navy Diver 2nd Class Petty Officer Kaiden Silva. “Having the opportunity to give back to someone as strong and brave as he is, makes me proud to be a Navy Diver. It’s amazing people like Sebastian that we are looking for to become the next generation of Navy Deep Sea Divers.”

    At the diving exhibit, they were able to use a special underwater radio system to talk to Silva and later his shipmate Navy Diver 2nd Class Petty Officer Chase Marini. As part of the expo, the divers were suited up in SCBA gear and engaged the crowd from inside a tank full of water. Sebastian and Joseph played tic-tac-toe on a panel of glass with both Silva and Marini at different times of the day. The boys visited the Navy divers on their way in to the expo, and made it their final stop before a late lunch with their families.

    “We take each day and try to pull every bit of beauty in life out of it. That’s the way we raised Sebastian, and the way we continue to live our lives,” said Stoces, at the end of a remarkable afternoon. “I’m proud that our Navy put on such a great event, and that every person can be a part of it, can go out and meet their military service members. This morning Sebastian said he wanted to be a Navy pilot, but on the ride home it sounded like he changed his mind to Navy diver.”

    Fleet Week is an annual, multi-day celebration of our nation’s Sea Services held on the LA Waterfront at the Port of Los Angeles over the Memorial Day Weekend. Free to the public, the event features public ship tours, military displays and equipment demonstrations, live entertainment, aircraft flyovers, and a Galley Wars culinary cook-off competition between Navy, Army, Marine and Coastguard teams. The event is May 24-30.



    Date Taken: 05.29.2022
    Date Posted: 05.30.2022 11:01
    Story ID: 421801
    Location: SAN PEDRO, CA, US 

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