03/11/05 — Rosewood boy's dreams come true at Cherry Point

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Rosewood boy's dreams come true at Cherry Point

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Published in News on March 11, 2005 1:51 PM


The Havelock News

Dalton Wallace wore his flight suit to church.

The 7-year-old from Goldsboro was still flying high from a recent visit to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, where he was the center of attention for Marines of all ranks.

Wearing the flight suit to church was a natural for the youngster, who has a form of muscular dystrophy called Friedreich's ataxia. He also suffers from a heart disease.

Dalton Wallace at Cherry Point

Tom Boné photo

Dalton Wallace watches jets landing at Cherry Point, resting on the shoulders of his tour guide, Gunnery Sgt. John Maier.

A former Marine and fellow church member at Princeton's Highest Praise Tabernacle, David Garten, suggested the base tour to the boy's parents.

Dalton Wallace, who attends Rosewood Elementary School, is fascinated by military service members. His flight suit, presented to him by the Marines as a reminder that he had fulfilled a wish to become a Marine for a day, was adorned with the unit patches from the 2d Marine Aircraft Wing and Station, and he was especially proud of his rank insignia, a full fledged gunnery sergeant, presented to him by his personal escort, Gunnery Sgt. John Maier, operations chief for the station's G-6 Directorate.

Dalton's mother, Stephanie, said the visit was more than she ever expected.

"All we thought we would get was a simple tour," she said. "Dalton is always talking about what he calls the 'Army-Mans' and we thought visiting the Marines would be good for him. The Marines just floored us with their generosity."

Cpl. Kevin Hayner, community relations chief at Cherry Point, arranged for the treatment after learning of a similar one for a child six years ago.

He said he called Kim Pennington, a civilian employee, who had helped arrange the other visit. "She searched for all the info and passed it on to me. He said she checked with the commander of her unit and called him back to report that her command would be thrilled to sponsor Dalton. "They collected money for gifts for the family, uniforms, and food. And it just snowballed from there."

Stephanie Wallace says it was more like an avalanche than a snowball.

Her husband, Randy, 3-year-old daughter, Zhoi, and 1-year old son, Kamdin, trailed along as Dalton visited squadrons and units aboard the air station.

By the end of the day, bedecked in his flight suit and helmet bearing his name, Dalton should have been a tired young man. He had already seen first-hand the inside of jets and helicopters, met with crash fire and rescue Marines and air traffic controllers and weather forecasters, as well as explosives ordnance specialists, yet he was more than ready when he got a chance to fly in a World War II era aircraft.

Hayner said Dalton could thank the upcoming Cherry Point Air Show for his good luck in arranging a flight. Air show veteran Art Nalls was in town to survey the site from the air with his fleet of class war birds, and he agreed to bring Dalton along for a ride.

Stephanie Wallace says she wasn't worried, because her husband got to go along, her family includes air traffic controllers and she's ridden in planes all her life.

"What was real special was that my father works for the Wilmington tower and he was on that day. Dalton got to talk to him on the radio. Dad turned up the speakers in the tower and everybody heard Dalton say, 'I love you grandpa.'"

Reprinted by permission of the Havelock News.