Friday, February 01, 2008

A Boy’s Wish Made Real

Dontay Burton and Gunnery Sgt. William C. House watch Marines in a battalion formation run at Camp Lejeune in May 2007. During a Make-A-Wish Foundation visit in North Carolina, Burton toured Marine Corps Air Stations New River and Cherry Point, Camp Gieger, as well as Camp Lejeune.

Jan. 31, 2008; Submitted on: 01/31/2008 03:26:47 PM ; Story ID#: 2008131152647
By Capt. Paul L. Greenberg, Marine Forces Reserve

BROOKPARK, Ohio (Jan. 31, 2008) -- On Jan. 12, 2008, a warrior named Dontay Burton was laid to rest at the First Missionary Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. He was eight years old.

Reserve Marines from Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve here attended the funeral to pay their respects.

“All he ever wanted to be was a Marine,” said Lt. Col. Minter B. Ralston, the battalion inspector-instructor, who attended the service with Sgt. Maj. Carl L. Chapman, the battalion sergeant major.

Burton, diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic Leukemia in November 2006, was inspired to be a Marine by his grandfather, retired Marine First Sgt. Freddie Crawford, according to Ralston.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation coordinated with the U.S. Marine Corps to make Burton’s dream come true during his short lifetime.

On May 2, 2007, with his cancer in full remission, Burton set off from his home in Maple Hills, Ohio for Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he met up with his sponsor, Gunnery Sgt. William C. House.

House, who was an intelligence chief for 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division at the time, told a Marine Corps reporter, “Dontay is an inspiration to me and all the Marines that got to meet him during his visit to Camp Lejeune. His fighting spirit to not only live but to succeed will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

During his stay in North Carolina, Burton toured Marine Corps Air Stations New River and Cherry Point, Camp Gieger, as well as Camp Lejeune. His experiences included a ride in an M1A1 Main Battle Tank, shooting at an indoor marksmanship trainer, and “flying” in an F/A-18D Hornet Simulator.

“We may grant the wishes, but we also appreciate the tremendous generosity and assistance of the Marines in giving the wish kids such a terrific experience. Everyone really goes all-out for the kids when they visit,” said Brent Goodrich, the media relations manager for Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, based in Phoenix, Ariz.

Although he fought his cancer into remission for about two years, Burton passed away on Jan. 6, 2008 in a Cleveland, Ohio hospital from complications resulting from a bacterial infection.

House, who stated that he saw Burton “as one of my kids,” drove to Ohio from his current duty assignment at Marine Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., to help comfort the family in their grief. He was not able to stay for the funeral, but dressed Burton in a small Marine Corps camouflage uniform for the burial.

Although their time together was short, it was clear that the impact made by Dontay Burton and the Make-A-Wish experience will be long lasting.

“He showed the young Marines at 8th Marine Regiment that no matter what the obstacle, it will be O.K.” explained House. “Dontay never complained. He was a grown man at heart. He taught me that adversity, no matter what form it comes in, does not have to stop or even slow us down.”

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