Chris M. sends this story about a wish come true:
Honorary Command Sgt. Maj. Philip Shriver renders his best salute. The 7-year-old was Soldier on Fort Riley for a day as a result of having his wish granted by Fort Riley and the Make a Wish Foundation of Kansas. Gary Skidmore
Fort Riley grants ill youth wish to be Soldier
By Gary Skidmore
FORT RILEY, Kan. (Army News Service, Sept. 27, 2004) -- Seven-year-old Phillip Shriver has a new guardian angel -- a little bear angel with red, white and blue wings, wearing a helmet.
Shriver who has a life threatening illness, leukemia, received the memento during his visit to Fort Riley Sept. 20, from Command Sgt. Maj. James Savitski, 4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery command sergeant major.
Shriver was here living his dream of being a Soldier -- if only for a day. His wish was granted by Fort Riley and the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Kansas.
Savitski said he received the bear from his daughter, Michelle, then 12 years old, while he was deployed to Iraq with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
"I figured my little guardian angel had done its job (kept him safe) and needed to be used somewhere else more appropriate” said Savitski. “Phillip was the right person to give it to. I hope and pray it keeps him safe and protects and comforts him."
Shriver's day on Fort Riley was filled with Soldiering.
Fort Riley’s youngest Solder arrived by helicopter, provided by Company B, 158th Aviation, of the Kansas Army National Guard, of Olathe, Kan.
Shriver's tour of duty as a Soldier began with a visit to Range 18 were members of H Troop, 1st Cavalry Regiment were honing their scouting skills.
"This is cool," said Shriver as he made his way to the hatch on the Humvee and got behind the 50-cal. machine gun mounted on the vehicle.
Shriver's next stop on the tour was the 1st Battalion, 13th Armor motor pool where he climbed aboard and explored an M1-A1 Abrams Tank.
After a quick tour and a brief explanation of the tank's capabilities, the crew fired the tank up and rumbled off with Shriver.
"We just drove him around the motor pool," said Staff Sgt. Thomas Patrick, the gunner on the battalion commander's tank. "Phillip sure seemed to enjoy it."
When the tank returned, Shriver's dad, Chris asked him what he thought about the ride. The young tanker replied without hesitation, "That tank can run over your truck!"
Next stop was the Engagement Skills Trainer where Shriver shot an M-16 and 9mm pistol in a virtual environment.God Bless you, Phillip Shriver! Err, I mean Sergeant Major!
"It's like a huge video game," said Richard Eyestone, Combat Arms Simulations Training instructor, as he assisted Shriver with loading a clip in his simulated 9mm pistol. "Targets will appear on the big screen, and you just have to shoot them."
At one point, Shriver's dad got down on the ground with his son and helped him aim the realistic weapon more accurately.
"That is about as real as you can get without actually firing a 9mm gun with real bullets," said Chris. "The gun kicks, and it sound like a gun firing. You just can't get more realistic than that."
After a stop at yet another virtual trainer that simulated tanks firing, it was chow time and Shriver was hungry.
Helping him with his tray, Savitski started Shriver down the serving line where he asked for peas and steak.
"He couldn't believe all the food we have here," said Savitski who said Shriver ate well.
"He eats just like a hungry soldier," said Savitski. "He did a great job."
Following lunch, Shriver was off to the Close Combat Tactical Trainer to train on a virtual tank.
"Are you ready to fire a tank?" asked retired Sgt. Maj. Jim Sands, Shriver's escort at the facility. "This is going to be fun," he said as he and Shriver climbed into the trainer.
Sands told the honorary private, "If you need anything, I know what it's like to be sick. You just call me."
Sands is recovering from a liver transplant after liver failure and said he feels close to Shriver because of his life threatening illness.
"It doesn't matter what, just call," he said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Gilbert Canuela, 24th Infantry Division command sergeant major, greeted Shriver and his parents in his office where the young private was promoted to honorary sergeant.
Shriver's mother, Lisa, assisted Canuela with pinning the sergeant stripes on her son's collar. Her eyes welled up with tears as her son stood at attention when the orders promoting him were read.
But the best was yet to come. Canuela took the newly promoted sergeant to the lobby of the headquarters where five sergeant majors were waiting for the special visitor.
"Its my honor to promote you to the grade of honorary command sergeant major," said Canuela. In a certificate signed by the Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth Preston, Shriver was promoted again.
With little warning to those present the youngest command sergeant major on Fort Riley, belted out, "Drop and give me 20."
With a startled hesitation, all six sergeant majors hit the ground. Counting out each push-up with "one sergeant major, two sergeant major until they had completed the task at hand.
As one Soldier asked "permission to recover," Shriver showed his leadership potential, tossing back calmly over his shoulder, "Recover," and the senior NCOs came to their feet.
Canuela said when Shriver goes home at the end of the day, he hopes he takes with him a sense of belonging.
"That he is one of us -- a band of brothers and sisters, and Army of One," Canuela said. "Only in our country (can you be) a 7-year-old and love your Army and be loved back in return," he said.
"I love this country, and I only want to return my gratitude for allowing me to serve with them," said Canuela. "Phillip is special because he gave that special love that only those with the right heart would know."
Canuela said going above and beyond for Shriver was never a question.
"It was my honor and I am truly blessed for the opportunity," said Canuela. "It is from all of our Soldiers," he said. "Every Soldier in the Army would have done the same for honorary CSM Phillip Shriver."
"He is a very courageous young boy," said Savitski.
"I think it's wonderful that he looks up to Soldiers as role models and wanted to spend time with them," he said. "I think my Soldiers were more inspired by Phillip than he was with my Soldiers. He touched everyone's heart."
Savitski said being in the military for more than 26 years, he has seen a lot of things but nothing affects a Soldier more than a child in need.
"No matter how macho a Soldier is, there is something about kids that finds the goodness in all people," said Savitski. "Its usually a child's smile."
For eight hours, 7-year-old Phillip Shriver pursued a dream that has kept him fortified throughout his battle with leukemia. He said he has always wanted to be a Soldier. And for that day, with the help from his newly found band of brothers and sisters, he was.
(Editor's note: Gary Skidmore is the command information officer for the Fort Riley Public Affairs Office.)
[doing push ups now]
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