12-year-old with rare heart defect becomes honorary Marine

Nathan Aldaco suffers from a rare congenital heart defect, but his health condition hasn’t prevented him from fulfilling his wish to become a U.S. Marine.

The Marines of the 7th Engineer Support Battalion at Camp Pendleton, Calif., recently gave the 12-year-old his own combat uniform for the trip, which Make-a-Wish Foundation made possible. They also gave him and his family a tour of an explosive ordinance disposal compound to show the boy the explosives they disarmed, Sgt. Laura Guana wrote on Facebook. Next, he traveled through a demolition range in a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, and the team showed him their EOD robots, detonated TNT, C4, dynamite and blasting caps.

“The bombs were cool,”  Aldaco said in an interview with the Marines’ official website. “I like working with robots. It was fun controlling them and picking stuff up with them.”

As a child, Aldaco was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, in which the left heart is severely underdeveloped. He’s undergone various surgeries and is thriving, according to a report by the Marines.

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Make-a-Wish contacted his family earlier this year, and the organization forwarded his list to the Marines, who made his dreams come true on March 24.

"It's a true honor to do this for Nathan," 1st Lt. Ernesto Gaudio, 2nd platoon commander, Bravo Company, 7th ESB, 1st MLG, told the Marines website. "We wanted to make him feel like he was a part of the Marine family. We are in service to the United States of America, and Nathan is a citizen of the United States. We were just making his wish come true."

Nathan also helped drive some of the battalion’s largest vehicles before he was honored in a special award ceremony— the last wish on his list.