MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- He stands noticeably smaller than the Marines to his right and left. Their frames fill out their camouflage utilities and flak jackets, while his looks a couple sizes too small.
Despite the noticeable size difference, Ryan Forbes, a 13-year-old native of San Diego, held his own with the Marines of Lima Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. His grin from ear to ear could be seen as they joked during lunch and when describing the lifestyle of the Marines in the field.
Forbes received a small taste of that lifestyle when he was made a “Marine for a day” with the battery. The Marine Corps coordinated with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant his wish May 13. Forbes was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer in January, but he hasn’t let his current treatment hinder his enthusiasm for the military.
Forbes arrived with his parents and brother in the morning, but after a short meeting and a long drive, he was seen in flak jacket and Kevlar. He talked to Marines about various weapon systems, ate a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, called orders through the radio and participated in a fire mission at the gunline.
It was an eventful day that culminated with him fulfilling one of his dreams.
“I came out and fired a howitzer,” said Forbes with a grin. “It shook me.”
Forbes has wanted to join the military for several years. He spends time learning about the different branches, what it takes to complete recruit training and the various weapon systems. He saw some of the same weapon systems today.
“I learned a lot about different guns like the 240B (machine gun) and the SAW (squad automatic weapon), and how a howitzer works,” Forbes said.
With the smell of artillery fire still in the air, Forbes relaxed with his section during lunch. Forbes and his brother Jason seemed right at home with the Marines. With an M777 lightweight howitzer as their backdrop, they talked and laughed like old friends.
“Guys just never change,” said Navy Lt. Katrina Landa, the battalion surgeon. “He just sat down with the Marines and joked and told stories.”
While Forbes enjoyed the visit, many felt the Marines got just as much, if not more, from their guest of honor.
“I think the Marines got a really good sense of helping other people,” Landa said. “They are usually so focused on the mission, but here they got to see the human side. They saw how they inspire a young child.”
Forbes returned home with a handful of gifts and souvenirs from the Marines. While they gave him shirts, plaques and trinkets, Forbes gave the Marines something more. His grin was transferred to the Marines in attendance who couldn’t help but enjoy his youthful enthusiasm. They won’t forget Forbes soon as they honored him with his name taped on their howitzer.