QUANTICO, VA. — When classmates of Bobby Murphy, an eighth grade student at Richard Teitelman School, Erma, gather to ask, “What did you do this summer?” imagine their expressions when he responds, “Sat at the controls of Marine One, (the president’s helicopter), drilled with OCS Marine Corps Drill Instructors at Marine Corps Base Quantico, rode in a river craft, and experienced being a U.S. Marine for two days.”
After their jaws drop in amazement, it’s likely Murphy, 13, son of Larry and Lisa Murphy of Villas, will probably mention he met a three-star general, wore combat gear, helmet, bullet-proof vest, and did some time “on the ropes” as part of the obstacle course Marine officers encounter as they undergo 12 weeks of gut-wrenching (and busting) training, (as in Marine-style pushups to an instructor’s count as he led them).
More mind-boggling still is that Murphy underwent that rigorous Marine Corps experience as part of his “Make a Wish” dream.
Just over a year ago, Murphy spent five weeks at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where he underwent treatment for Severe Aplastic Anemia, a bone marrow disease. Determined to get well from the day of admission until the hour of release to return to his Villas home, Murphy was focused.
When the family was approached by hospital staff about a Make A Wish they were stunned; they always thought wishes were for youngsters that were terminally ill, which caused some panic. When explained that it was for youngsters who had life-threatening illnesses it truly put things into perspective about what every member of the Murphy family was facing.
The illness affected not only Bobby but the entire family. The dream he chose filled the family with pride for him and his country, and will hopefully help him on his quest to some day become a United States Marine.
Bobby’s younger brother, Jack, 9, was right alongside him, literally and figuratively all the way through his battle with aplastic anemia. The Murphy brothers stood tall as they could, side-by-side on the asphalt “grinder” and they marched together. Tagging along was youngest brother Sean, to the cadence growled, and sometimes shouted in the face, by veteran leatherneck drill instructors.
Through all the shouts and rapid-fire orders barked at him, Bobby maintained a contented smile.
It was Jack’s bone marrow donation to his brother that aided in Bobby’s recovery. Because of that bond, it was only fitting the two should share the agony and the ecstasy of those days living the life of a Marine.
Possibly some of that boyhood desire to one day wear that revered eagle, globe and anchor pin, the emblem of a Marine, grew from his father’s service with “the Corps.” The elder Murphy was a sergeant in the Marine Corps during Operation Desert Storm. He is a member of the Leathernecks Motorcycle Club and many local veterans’ organizations, Mom, Lisa, is a graphic artist with the Herald.
Bobby’s “Make A Wish” dream was pulled together by a great and hard-working team of members from the Make A Wish offices in New Jersey and Virginia, as well as from an awesome staff of Marines and civilians at MCB Quantico.
It took months of planning and coordination but from the first day, it was amazing. When the Murphy family arrived in Quantico, a roomful of gifts awaited them. Bobby was issued a full Marine uniform from head to toe, which he wore during his two-day training.
Training began on Tue., Aug. 21, bright and early at “oh-700” (or 7 a.m. for civilians). They were greeted by a Marine Corps police officer to escort the family to the office of Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills, a senior U.S. Marine Corps officer, currently Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration and Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico.
When the family arrived, his full staff and Mills’ wife greeted them.
Lt. Gen. Mills sat with the family and welcomed them. He was very excited to help fulfill Bobby’s dream. During the visit, Mills promoted Bobby to a “corporal” for his two days and presented him with a challenge coin.
Next stop was Officer Candidate School to meet with the drill instructors.
It was a full-on, crash course in what a Marine experiences including 25 minutes of learning how to walk, talk and march as a Marine. Four drill instructors surrounded the three Murphy brothers and gave them full and undivided attention.
What an experience was that half hour for the boys. In minutes, they had to absorb how to follow orders, not turn until the execution order was given, and not to “tap dance” but to smartly turn when so ordered. “Do you understand?” “Yes, sir!” “I didn’t hear you.” “YES, SIR!” Amid the commands, Bobby grinned with assurance and self-confidence.
Following what was an ear-shattering morning, the Murphys got to ride in a Marine Corps rescue/dive boats with Master Sgt. Bret Davis. Bobby even got to steer the speeding boat.
Next came a visit to see and experience the President’s helicopter, Marine One, so designated when the commander-in-chief is aboard.
Bobby and his brothers walked in, wide mouthed, at the sight of Marine One, they got to tour the hangar and the helicopter, and even got to sit in the President’s seat. Following that, they got to fire real weapons in simulators, were able to run a full physical training course, learned and experienced the Marine Corps martial arts program to learn unarmed combat. They even enjoyed (yes, enjoyed) an official MRE (meals ready to eat) lunch. The day ended with a tour at The Marine Corps Museum.
Day 2 was just as full. It began with Bobby leading Physical Training (PT) with members of the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group. Next came a demonstration by a USMC K-9 unit, rides on Hummers, and many of the vehicles used by Marines serving throughout the world.
All in the mess hall enjoyed another great lunch, and then it was off to “fly” Marine One in a simulator used to train helicopter pilots.
The day was almost over when the family visited the Marine Corps Reserve Unit and did simulator training in Humvees while driving through “foreign” countries and training with Marines.
Last stop was joining the Quantico Fire and Emergency Services on a fire truck ride to do “collapsed building training” with Embassy Marines. That concluded Bobby’s two-day training as a Marine.
That was the last stop for Quantico, but not the last event planned by Make A Wish Virginia.
The staff and members of Marine Corps Base Quantico was welcoming and made the family feel as if they were one of their own, according to Lisa.
Day 3 of Bobby’s dream was a visit to the Richmond office of the FBI. He met a special agent, had a tour of the offices and was given an explanation of what that office handles.
Bobby met the Forensics team and learned about bomb response, Internet crimes, basic forensics such as fingerprinting and the FBI SWAT team.
Day 4 was a trip to King’s Dominion and ended with a special invitation to attend the Marine Corps Friday Evening Parade in Washington, D.C. at Marine Base Washington at Eighth and I, the oldest active post which supports both ceremonial and security missions in the nation’s capital. It is home to every Marine Corps commandant.
Bobby’s wish was the first of its kind for Marine Corps Base Quantico. The Murphys were told the base has had other families visit, but were never asked to train like a Marine.
“The Marines heard about that, and they jumped at the chance to show who they were and what they do and gave the whole Murphy family a new view of what our country’s Marines do on a daily basis. It truly opened our eyes and was amazingly overwhelming,” Lisa concluded