COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - She's only 13, but a Texas girl is becoming Army strong at Fort Jackson as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Alyssa Braden was diagnosed two years ago with cystic fibrosis, a disease she knew would keep her out of the military. But thanks to the foundation, she got a taste of what it's like.
On a range crowded with basic trainees, Braden stands out -- not only because of her age or the fact that she's cradling an M-16. Facing a life-threatening disease, Braden's one wish is to be a soldier.
"It first started with my uncle, he went to the Army and that started it all," she said. "I realized that being in the Army means you're a hero and everybody looks up to you. I just wanted to be a hero."
While other kids might ask for trips to theme parks. the Texas teen chose Fort Jackson. "It makes perfect sense because she really wants to be a soldier and she can't whenever she grows up so, that really hurt her a lot when she found that out but the fact that she gets to come here is just crazy," said her mother Chessa.
Crazier still, Monday's challenge was one of the fort's most formidable. "She's the first 13-year-old girl I've seen come off the tower, and I've seen grown men cry on this thing!" said SSGT Patrick Frye.
"She doesn't want people to feel bad for her and give her special treatment like she's a baby," said Chessa. "She takes care of herself. She's a strong kid."
A kid that fights the effects of Cystic Fibrosis on a daily basis conquered a fear of heights, and she did it with men and women she normally looks up to returning the favor.
"To see a 13-year-old girl come out here and do what we do is just awesome," said Frye. "That's all I can say."
"My second biggest wish was to go on a ski trip, but no matter how much money we have, I can never go into the Army, so I can never do this," Alyssa said.