From the time she was in the 8th grade, 15-year-old Joyce Ortiz Arman has wanted to be a Marine.
“We have ROTC that starts in 9th grade. We had 8th grade and 9th grade in the same building and I would see so many people come in. The (Marines) that are retired now, they’re helping with ROTC,” said Arman. “I would see them in their uniforms, doing drills with their guns and they would talk so much about (the Marine Corps) … I joined but I couldn’t (continue) because I got diagnosed with cancer.”
Arman was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. According to St. Jude’s research hospital, it is the second most common type of bone cancer in children but is still very rare, especially in girls.
“When they told me I had caner, it was a total shut down, a total breakdown (for me),” said Arman. “My inspiration was, ‘I’m not going to die. I’m going to fight through this and become the Marine I want to become.’ That was my motivation. Marines are my motivation to keep going in life.”
Even in the lowest of spirits, Arman managed to stay positive and push through the adversity to come out stronger on the other side.
“I wanted her to think of other things, because she could have lost her leg,” said Giselle Arman, Joyce’s mother. “But she taught me that she has strength to keep going.”
The Make-A-Wish Foundation granted her wish to become a Marine by creating the opportunity for her to meet Marines from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River, Nov. 6-8. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a non-profit organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. Wishes are a child’s request to the foundation and can be numerous things like a trip to Disneyland or meeting a celebrity.
“(Joyce) is so full of life. She found out when she was 14 that she has cancer. She used to be this really big runner. She loved to run. Now she can’t really do it anymore. The thing that she loved the most was taken away from her. Battling all of that, she still just has the biggest spirit and the biggest heart,” said Sgt. Mercedes Roach, a K-9 handler with the Camp Lejeune Provost Marshal Office. “She’s just a great person.”
The tour included demonstrations of the military working dogs, color guard, Humvee simulator, the simulation integration center, M1A1 Abrams tank and more. She was also able to attend the Joint Daytime Ceremony in order to celebrate the 242nd birthday of the Marine Corps.
The pride she demonstrates about the Marine Corps resonated with the Marines Joyce interacted with.
“When we heard she got to make a wish…and said, ‘I want to go hang out with Marines.’ The Marines were honored,” said Roach. “One of the tank Marines gave her the coin he has carried around with him since the start of his career, even through deployments. He’d known her for 20 minutes and was already giving her something that was so special to him. It makes everyone feel honored.”
So, why did Joyce choose the Marines to motivate her through her journey? She chose them because Marines are the few, the proud.
“You really don’t hear that much about them. The Marines need more people to show that they are the best. To show that we are the Marines, we can do the same thing as the Navy, the Army, the Coast Guard and the Air Force,” said Joyce. “We can do the same thing as them but ten times better.”