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Wish To Be Soldier Comes True For Young Boy With Brain Tumor
by U.S. Army Spc. Sara Messner, Camp Ripley Training Center
July 6, 2020

On June 22, 2020, seven year old Dexter Preston got his to wish to be a soldier for a day.

Make-A-Wish Foundation and the National Guard at Camp Ripley Training Center (CRTC) collaborated on putting this together and making it happen. Dexter, along with his family, came to Camp Ripley to experience everything that was on his bucket list to see and do in the Army.

“We were so excited when we found out Dexter’s wish would come true. He specifically wanted to be a soldier in the Army because of the cool tanks. He likes tanks and said that the army just ‘popped up’ in his head,” shared Hannah, Dexter’s mom.

Before Dexter’s official visit, he was presented with a complete army uniform (OCPs) including his name and the rank of Colonel, and a set of dog tags. He reported to Camp Ripley in uniform ready for this monumental event. The event began in the Environmental classroom located in the TACC building.

June 22, 2020 - The Make-a-Wish Foundation and The Minnesota National Guard collaborated to bring a young boy's wish of being "a soldier for a day", come true. Dexter Preston along with his family visited Camp Ripley to experience a soldier's role in the National Guard. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sara Messner, Camp Ripley Training Center)
June 22, 2020 - The Make-a-Wish Foundation and The Minnesota National Guard collaborated to bring a young boy's wish of being "a soldier for a day", come true. Dexter Preston along with his family visited Camp Ripley to experience a soldier's role in the National Guard. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sara Messner, Camp Ripley Training Center)

A special visitor stopped in to meet “Col.” Preston ... BG Lowell Kruse, Camp Ripley Senior Commander, who took him for a ride in his jeep. After a photo in front of the main gate at CRTC, Dexter and his family got on a bus to head to the next location.

The rest of the morning consisted of looking inside an Abrams Tank and a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, using night-vision goggles, riding inside a fire truck and spraying water, flying a simulated chopper than getting “pinned” with wings, and finally, stopping for lunch with BG Kruse and LTC Patrick Cornwell, Camp Ripley Deputy Commander. After a busy morning, Col. Preston was ready to retire and head back home.

Lindsey Wagner, a Wish Coordinator in North Dakota, talked about how it was heartwarming to see it all come true and for everything to be checked off Dexter’s wish list. She had the privilege of meeting him last summer at the Ronald McDonald House while he was going through treatment for his brain tumor. Dexter was referred to them through a medical worker at one of the facilities where he was being treated. After hearing about his situation, they jumped on board immediately.

Soldiers from the Brainerd based 1st Combined Arms Battalion -194th Armor were going to support the Make-A-Wish event for Dexter’s visit to Camp Ripley. SSG Michael Stanek was slotted as the point of contact (POC) and spearheaded the entire operation.

SSG Stanek went to meet Dexter a few weeks ago for the wish reveal and presenting of the army uniform. When asked how he felt about being the POC for Dexter, Stanek said, “It is a privilege to give back, especially [to the] youth. An opportunity like this doesn’t come along every day. Everything happens for a reason and my message is that we can all learn from the resilience that Dexter has shown through his young life to this point. Again, it was a great opportunity to live the Minnesota National Guard motto of ‘We Live Here, We Work Here, We Serve Here.’”

Whoever meets Dexter Preston can see he has quite a sense of humor and has a positive outlook on life. Dexter’s Grandparents both said that he never complained during his chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

They also commented about his contagious smile that brightens a room. After asking Dexter what he likes to do he said, “My favorite thing is playing Halo and Roblox. My mom and I play video games together, but I always win.”

“It was great to see everyone come together and make this happen. A huge thank you to everyone who helped out!” Lindsey Wagner concluded on the event.

Make-A-Wish Foundation | National Guard Camp Ripley Training Center

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