MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Most children grow up playing with trucks and tanks, but few of them have the chance to ever experience riding the “Iron Horse.”
Thanks to the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Marines of 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, that experience came alive for six-year-old Brandon Rasnick of Lehigh Acres, Fla.
Brandon, who was promoted to the rank of sergeant by his fellow Marines, has cystic fibrosis, a genetic lung disorder. Since his one wish was train with Marines and to “save the world,” the Marines of 2nd Tanks arranged a tank display and ride for Brandon.
Sgt. Ricardo Fernandez Jr., a tank commander with C Company, instructed Brandon on the M-1A1 Abrams Battle Tank and took him on the ride of his life.
“It was great doing something like that for him,” said the San Antonio native. “For us, riding in a tank is not that big of a deal, but seeing the excitement and amazement in his eyes made me realize how important and special it is to some people.”
Before taking off on the ride, Brandon got the opportunity to look around the inside and outside of the tank. He learned about where the rounds go to fire the main gun. He was able to look through the sights of the mounted guns, and he learned the basic functions of the tank.
“It was so awesome teaching him about the tank,” said Fernandez, a 2002 John Jay High School graduate. “Seeing the look on his face when I told him certain things about the tank was great.”
The 22-year-old father of two explained what it was like for him driving Brandon around the base.
“He was a little cold, but he was so excited to be riding in a tank,” he said. “When we were crossing the road, he said to me, ‘All clear tank commander!’ I could tell he was having an awesome time.”
Spending the morning with Brandon and giving him the experience of the “Iron Horse” put a different light on life for Fernandez.
“Just seeing this six-year-old fighting through this sickness was amazing,” he said. “It’s tougher than anything we’ll have to do. He’s definitely a warrior and for me it put a different perspective on life. It makes you appreciate everything you take for granted.”
This morning was one that Brandon or his fellow Marines will not soon forget.
“I’m glad I got a chance to be a part of this,” Fernandez said. “This experience made me feel special, and I will never forget this.”