The rescue swimmers of Air Station Kodiak recently made a young boy’s dream come true. Andrew Bishop, an 8-year-old from Woodland, Washington, qualified to have his wish to become a Coast Guard rescue swimmer granted by the organization Make-A-Wish Foundation Alaska & Washington.
The foundation grants wishes to children who suffer from critical and terminal illnesses.
Andrew was born with a rare birth defect that causes him to be nonverbal, non-mobile, and suffer from seizures, among other complications.
Andrew and his family were flown to Kodiak, where an entourage of rescue swimmers meet them.
Stephanie Bishop, Andrew’s mother, said they knew this was going to be a special trip right when they arrived.
From the minute we got there, it was like we stepped into a big family,” she said. “We were expecting two, three, maybe four people to be there at the airport and there was maybe 20. It was crazy.”
The Coast Guard and Make-a-Wish filled Andrew’s time in Kodiak with all sorts of activities including aquatics training and equipment inspections. He also was part of a retirement ceremony for a rescue swimmer.
The pinnacle of his trip was being able to go on a simulated search and rescue mission in a helicopter.
Aviation Survival Technician 1st Class Nesward Keola Marfil was Andrew’s rescue swimmer guide while he was in Kodiak.
He recalls the moment he knew Andrew’s wish had been fulfilled.
“I just remember we were flying back from Spruce Cape and we had just completed the hoist and I was sitting to the right of Andrew and that was the point right there when we were sitting in the helicopter and enjoying the view.”
Even though Andrew couldn’t stay with the Coast Guard forever, he didn’t leave empty handed.
They gave him a bunch of stuff including his own flight suit, rescue fins and even a certificate that made Andrew an honorary third-class rescue swimmer.