MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- From privates first class to sergeants major to lieutenant colonels, all Marines who saw the newly promoted sergeant walking through their work areas were quick to render the appropriate military courtesies. After all, Brandon Rasnick had accomplished what no one else in the 2nd Marine Division had, made the rank of sergeant in one day.
It’s a success the Lehigh Acres, Fla., native did not tout as he made his rounds throughout the base. Rather, the Marines and sailors smiled and waved as the shortest noncommissioned officer they had ever seen walked through their midst.
On Dec. 12, Marine Corps Community Services and 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment welcomed Brandon here as he commenced his trip, made possible by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. All that six-year-old Brandon, a boy afflicted with the genetic lung disease cystic fibrosis, asked for was that his dream of training alongside the nation’s elite fighting forces be fulfilled. It was a request those he came in contact with were all too glad to make happen.
His father, Joseph; mother, Deanne; and half-sister, Marissa, first accompanied Brandon to the Main Exchange Annex, where he received a set of Marine digital utilities, suede combat boots and sergeant chevrons.
Now a fully-fledged “devil pup,” Brandon and his family were next welcomed aboard by Lt. Col. Brad Vickers, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment’s commander.
“This was a great opportunity for us, and we were all very excited to support Brandon’s wish coming true,” said Vickers, whose battalion provided escort for Brandon as he toured several training grounds on base. “This was something any unit in the 2nd Marine Division could have done well, but we were fortunate enough to be chosen.”
He added that this was a welcome break from the intense training his unit has been undergoing to prepare for the ever-present possibility of deployment.
Vickers then presented Brandon with a Marine Corps-theme Monopoly board game and a red baseball cap emblazoned with the Marine Corps’ emblem
“All of my Marines were impressed by how smart six-year-old Brandon was; his obvious knowledge over the Corps and his love for the same,” Vickers said. “He was a very spectacular young man and we were all very pleased to be able to take part in this.”
The positive attitude carried over into the evening when a squad from the battalion’s A Company met Brandon inside a local mess hall. There, Sgt. Steven Dattilo, several of his Marines and a Navy corpsman presented Brandon with military mementos.
These included uniform items, a commemorative Marine Corps ring and a deployment photo yearbook.
“As a former recruiter, it’s really amazing for me to see someone who wants to be a Marine from that early on,” said Dattilo, a 35-year-old native of Madison, Ind. “You have to give it up for a kid with that much desire. I feel like we (Marine Corps) are being cheated out of a good Marine.”
“For all of us who have kids or nephews that age, it felt especially good to be able to make this day special for Brandon and the rest of his family,” Dattilo said. “We’re just doing our part to show them that we care.”
After Brandon finished his chow, he marveled at his new souvenirs, thumbing the Marine Corps ring that now hung from a golden chain on his neck.
“I feel like a Marine already,” Brandon said. “I’ll bet it’s really fun being a Marine.”