MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
For the regular recruit, earning the title United States Marine takes 13 weeks, but for 13-year-old Louisiana native Cade Liles, this journey took 48-hours. With the support of organizations like Make-A-Wish, along with the personnel at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, together, volunteers and Marines were able to make Cade’s dream come true; experiencing what life is like to live and train as a Marine.
Cade’s interest in the Marine Corps originated from his great uncle, a Marine Corps veteran who passed away from cancer. His admiration for his great-uncle’s service ignited a passion in Cade that pushed him to study Marine Corps history. Cade wanted to experience the comradery and pride that comes from being a Marine.
“Cade was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic condition that affects anywhere where there is mucus,” said Holly Liles, Cade's mother. “For him, it mainly affects his sinuses and his gut, it's chronic, and incurable – but we’re still rockin’ it!”
Cade’s Make-A-Wish journey took a big step forward when he arrived at MCRD San Diego, August 3, 2023. Stepping onto the iconic yellow footprints, he embarked on an experience that every enlisted Marine has gone through. Upon making his phone call home, he read the script on the wall, letting his mom know he arrived safely. Cade received his Marine Corps uniforms, kicking off what his mother called a series of unforgettable moments.
Following the first 30-minutes after arriving at boot camp known as receiving, Cade was given the honor of leading the motivational run for Alpha Company, the graduating company that week. Following the run, he received a Senior Drill Instructor speech, reinforcing the values and principles that make Marines stand out as a distinct and respected group. He then went on to earn his Marine Corps Martial Arts tan belt, learning the fundamentals of self-defense. Cade also toured the armory where he learned about multiple weapon systems used throughout the Marine Corps. The day ended in a ceremony where Cade was awarded his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor insignia, marking his successful completion of recruit training and his official transformation into a Marine. Leadership at MCRD San Diego also awarded Cade with a plaque, signifying his achievement as an Honor Graduate. Cade had the opportunity to experience a glimpse of what recruits go through over the 13-week period.
Photo by Lance Cpl. Francisco Angel
Cade Liles, a child with the Make-A-Wish foundation, poses for a photo at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Aug. 3, 2023. MCRD San Diego supported the mission of the Make-A-Wish foundation in granting Cade Liles’ wish of experiencing portions of Marine training and military life.
The following day Cade and his family continued their Make-A-Wish journey at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. He was greeted by Staff Sgt. Francisco Rodriguez, a Primary Marksmanship Instructor with Weapons Field and Training Battalion. Staff Sgt. Rodriguez taught Cade the basics of shooting an M16-A4 service rifle, and gave him the opportunity to practice what he learned in an indoor marksmanship facility.
Cade's visit to MCB Camp Pendleton was made even more special by the presence of Marines from many different occupational specialties. He learned about different jobs and their roles and responsibilities. He toured a static display at Weapons and Field Training Battalion of military vehicles, and air assets, inside and out - learning how to operate the different parts. Cade’s most memorable moment was using a radio to communicate with the Helicopter pilots.
“My favorite part of both days was probably calling the chopper! And eating,” said Cade. “It was amazing, I loved it!” His mother also expressed great gratitude for the Marines involved in making Cade’s wish come true. “Words aren’t enough to ever say thank you for everything I’ve gotten to watch him experience,” said Liles. “It was completely a dream come true for him.”