Maegan Ernis

by Theresa Merto Cepeda
U.S. Navy

SANTA RITA, Guam (Sept. 30, 2017) – By all accounts, 11-year-old Maegan Ernis is a typical tween.

She loves to play basketball with her cousins and watch “princess shows.” Her favorite food is Ichiban, Spam and fried rice. And like other kids her age, she is attached to her iPhone7.

But two years ago, her life was changed. She was diagnosed with Fanconi’s Anemia, a rare genetic disorder, in the category of inherited bone marrow failure syndromes. It results in decreased production of all types of blood cells.

Despite her circumstances, Maegan does not let the condition affect her everyday life. The Math buff is looking forward to the future and hopes to one day become a doctor so she can help others. With the assistance of the Make-A-Wish foundation in Guam and U.S. Naval Base Guam personnel, she was able to cross another goal off her list and become Sailor for a Day (SFAD).

On Sept. 30, Maegan had the opportunity to be a Sailor during an honorary enlistment at the command headquarters. Maegan is the second Make-A-Wish recipient to participate in the SFAD program. The program is a wish enhancement component for Maegan as her main wish for an iPhone 7 was granted in January, according to Make-A-Wish officials.

“It’s exciting,” Maegan said of the opportunity to be a SFAD. “It sounded fun. I’ve never done anything like this before.”

Capt. Hans Sholley, NBG commanding officer, coordinated with Make-A-Wish Guam to launch the NBG SFAD program earlier this year to do something special for children in similar circumstances.

“On behalf of the Naval Base Guam team, we are honored to be able to provide a memorable experience for our Sailor for a Day,” Sholley said. “Maegan deals with challenging circumstances on a daily basis and her bravery is a shining example for us all. She is truly a hero among heroes.”

Maegan’s adventure started with her enlistment into the Navy, uniform issue, a ride in an NBG patrol car and firetruck, and an excursion on a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) small boat in Apra Harbor.

“USCG Sector Guam was honored to host Maegen and her family on board the 45' Response Boat,” said Cmdr. James Campbell, USCG Sector Guam deputy sector commander. “The Make-A-Wish Foundation afforded our Coast Guard members an unforgettable experience as they got to be a part of Maegen's special day as she took to the sea. We proudly welcome her to our Coast Guard family.”

She was integrated with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit FIVE (EODMU-5), controlling robots and observing demonstrations. Maegan also took a tour of the USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723) and saw first-hand how a submariner lives while out at sea.

“Most of my Sailors have families, many with small children. Families play a critical part in our unit and mission readiness. When life events occur, specifically when dealing with the health of a child, our Sailors overwhelmingly rally behind each other without hesitation,” said Cmdr. Mike Tollison, EODMU-5 commanding officer. “My command was excited to take part in Naval Base Guam's ‘Make a Wish - Sailor for the Day’ program. My crew eagerly volunteered for this opportunity and designed events that we know will make her time here special. We hope Maegan leaves with an understanding of some of the exciting mission areas that we are trained do in support of our country's national priorities. Although it's a special day for Maegan, it's also a special day for EOD Mobile Unit FIVE when we can participate in events like Make a Wish.”

At the end of the day, she received an evaluation of her performance, End of Tour award, and a command coin as a testament to a job well done.

“Maegan tires easily and isn't able to participate in a lot of activities but she knows her limits and is still able to join in and have fun,” her mother Conception Ernis said. “Maegan is very excited so it makes me excited. Thank you for making my daughter happy. It makes me happy to see her happy.”

The mission of Make-A-Wish is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.

“We are grateful for any offer of activity that will enhance a wish for our Wish Kids. Many of our local population serve in the armed forces in one capacity or another. This is a terrific opportunity for our children to glimpse into the professions and lives of what some of their relatives may be doing,” said Eric Tydingco, Make-A-Wish Guam/CNMI executive director, acknowledging all the Sailors who spent their Saturday hosting Maegan. “Thank you for spending your valuable free time with our Wish kids. We know that there are many other things that may demand your time, and for you to devote some of that to bringing excitement and joy to our Wish kids is heartwarming.”

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