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NEWS | Dec. 4, 2020

Wisconsin Guard makes a wish come true for a boy to be a Soldier

By Courtesy Wisconsin National Guard

FORT MCCOY, Wis. — On Nov. 7, Fort McCoy hosted a Make-A-Wish Foundation event for 8-year-old Chicago resident Miguel Garcia, whose wish was to be an Army Soldier.

Garcia, along with several family members, was able to experience various activities during his visit to Fort McCoy, which was coordinated through the Wisconsin and Illinois Make-A-Wish Foundations with support from Fort McCoy members and the Wisconsin National Guard.

The activities included assisting in landing a helicopter over the radio, touring a variety of military equipment, and hands-on simulation training at the Fort McCoy simulations training area in the 200 block of the installation.

The Garcia family was first met at the Sparta-Fort McCoy Airport on the morning of Nov. 7. The family's tour facilitator was Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Bushman with the 95th Training Division (TD), and the interpreter for the family was Officer Johnathan Hernandez with the Fort McCoy Directorate of Emergency Services (DES) Police Department. Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. Michael D. Poss and his family were also there to greet the Garcias when they arrived.

Garcia's first item was his first Army uniform, which included name tapes and a uniform cap. He was now ready to be a Soldier. He then got a tour of the air traffic control tower at the airport, where he communicated with the crew of a Wisconsin National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk to provide them with official maneuver commands and communication.

After the Black Hawk landed, Miguel met with crew members who presented him with a Black Hawk model and a set of Army Aviation flying wings.

Garcia then traveled in a Fort McCoy police patrol vehicle that led a convoy to the Fort McCoy Main Gate and then on to the 88th Readiness Division's (RD) Equipment Concentration Site (ECS)-67.

At ECS-67, the Garcia family was met by ECS Foreman Joe Newman and ECS Supervisor Anthony Frey, who provided a full tour of the equipment stored at their facility. Garcia received a ride in the Joint-Light Tactical Vehicle and all-terrain vehicles around the equipment yard complex. The 8-year-old boy also was able to try on a pair of night-vision goggles and explore in the dark.

Garcia and his family also were offered MREs for lunch while at ECS-67. Some Soldiers were on hand to give them a lesson on how to eat an MRE best, and they described the benefits of the meals. Pizza was offered for lunch after the MRE lesson.

Upon wrapping up the visit to ECS-67, Miguel was presented with a wooden flag made by ECS employee and Reserve Soldier Marcus Radloff. The flag was full of unit patches and coins and provided additional space for Miguel's patches and coins throughout the day. The tour then moved on to the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) at the Fort McCoy simulations training complex.

At the EST building, Garcia was prepped to go into the simulation training with camouflage face paint. Then he and two of his siblings participated in simulation target training using the M4 rifle and the M249 squad automatic weapon.

At the EST, Miguel was assisted by John Kumpf, a simulation specialist for the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS), on handling properly and firing the simulation weapons.

After the EST engagement, the Garcia family went to Fort McCoy's Commemorative Area where the family walked through Equipment Park, saw Veterans Memorial Plaza and the History Center, and more.

While at the Commemorative Area, Miguel was also presented with an honorary drill sergeant pin and led a group of Soldiers with some drill commands. Then, in front of Veterans Memorial Plaza, photos were taken with Miguel, his family, volunteers, and Soldiers who participated in the day's activities. Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Mantha, garrison command sergeant major, then presented Miguel with the final coin for his collection from the Fort McCoy Garrison Command Team.

Units and offices supporting the event included the Fort McCoy Garrison; Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office; Fort McCoy DPTMS; Fort McCoy DES; Wisconsin National Guard; the 88th RD; 95th Training D; and 826th Ordnance Company.

Ana Garcia, Miguel's sister, passed on the family's appreciation for the event.

"I talked to Miguel," Ana said. "He said … everything was perfect. He enjoyed getting on the tanks and helicopter and looking inside of them. He enjoyed being with the Soldiers. He loves each of the gifts he got, and he is thankful for everything. My family enjoyed everything and learning about the Army. Thank you for making Miguel's wish come true on being a Soldier."

Capt. Nickolas Sinopoli, the Black Hawk pilot who communicated with Miguel along with fellow crew members Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Reeves and Staff Sgt. Matthew McCutchin said it was a "tremendous honor" to take part in Miguel's special day.

"From Miguel clearing us to land to pinning the wings on his chest and hoisting him into the pilot's seat, I'll never forget it," Sinopoli said. "One of the most rewarding things about flying is sharing the magic of aviation with others. Making Miguel's wish happen was one of the most gratifying moments of my flying career. The smile on his face makes it all worth it. The entire crew was on cloud nine coming back to Madison after meeting Miguel."

James Tomsovic, who works in the DPTMS air traffic control tower, enjoyed seeing the boy's excitement.

"I was honored to have Miguel and his family visit the air traffic control tower," Tomsovic said. "It was awesome to see the expression on Miguel's face when the UH-60 maneuvered close to the tower cab where he and the aircrew shared a hand wave or two with one another. I hope the day was everything he was hoping for."

Hernandez-Martinez said he enjoyed serving as the Garcia family's interpreter.

"I enjoyed my day with Miguel, and I was super excited to help him to make his wish come true," he said.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in the U.S. that helps fulfill children's wishes with a critical illness between the ages of 2 ½ and 17 years old.

Make-A-Wish was founded and is headquartered in Phoenix. The organization operates through its 60 chapters located throughout the United States.

Make-A-Wish also operates in 45 other countries around the world through 38 other affiliate offices.