KEMPNER — Capt. Deetrick Jeffries was commissioned six years ago, and for the last three years, he served as the commander of Bravo “Bone Crushers” Company, 115th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Calvary Division.
In that time, as with many other units, he has witnessed his soldiers come together to form a close bond.
“We always look after our own,” he said. “When one of us is hurting, we are all hurting. We will do what we can to help each other out.”
Never was that more evident than Friday afternoon at retired Sgt. Frank Laguna’s Kempner home, as 15 volunteers helped make Laguna’s 8-year-old son Antonio’s Make-A-Wish dream become reality.
When Frank and Candace Laguna were told their son was a candidate for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, they asked him what he would like.
He asked for a greenhouse, packed with edible fruits and vegetables.
“I wanted something that wasn’t for me, but for everybody,” Antonio said. “The greenhouse will help more people than just me and I wanted to have something that could make everyone happy. That’s what I try to do.”
Antonio suffers from a life-threatening disorder called rapid-onset obesity with hypothalamic dysfunction, hypoventilation and autonomic dysregulation. Essentially, the boy has a constant hunger he cannot satiate, and there is an ever-present danger for those with this disease to suddenly stop breathing.
“This is what they are going through every day,” Jeffries said. “He may have retired, but he is a part of our family. We will always be family.”
For some soldiers, helping the Lagunas revealed the frailty of life.
“As a mother of two, I cannot imagine going through anything like this,” said Spc. Nicole Wiltz, a soldier with Bone Crusher. “For us to help is not that big a deal. What they have to face — that’s hard.”
Spc. Angelo Bayona volunteered because he wanted to help build the dream of a young man. He said the greenhouse will be on the Lagunas’ property for a long time.
“It stands as a monument to Antonio and his family,” he said.
On Monday afternoon, for the ribbon-cutting and reveal at his home, everyone was left breathless as the young man caught the first glimpse of his wish.
“So many people worked together to make this happen before Antonio got home,” Candace Laguna said, explaining the work was completed while he visited his grandparents on their farm in Kentucky. “We really wanted it to be done so that he could start using it right away.”
Lauren Bremer, director of communications for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, said a wish is granted in America every 38 minutes, and 260 days of the year in Texas.
Yet even she hadn’t heard of such a selfless request.
“This is a very special wish from a very special boy. All these kids are special,” she said. “But this is very rare. He is a very living, compassionate young man.”