Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, slowly robs people of their ability to live.
Receiving a diagnosis for this incurable illness is always devastating for families, and the Sanchez family of El Paso, Texas, was no exception. When Frankie Sr. was diagnosed, he was still a healthy young man in the United States Army. He and his wife, Christy, had two teenage sons at home, and Frankie vowed he’d do anything in his power to stay alive to see the many wonderful milestones ahead for his family.
With his career behind him, Frankie Sr. set small goals, like seeing both his sons graduate from high school. When his oldest son, Frankie Jr., decided to go into the Air Force after graduation, the proud father had renewed motivation to fight his ALS.
“When our oldest son decided to join the AirForce, I encouraged him to go and start his life, despite my diagnoses,” Frankie Sr. explained. “It was good, because now I had a new goal. I needed to be around to watch him graduate basic training. I promised my son that if he graduated on time, I would be there to tap him out — a very moving tradition where the AirForce has new graduates stand at attention until they are ‘tapped out’ by a family member.”
The day before Frankie Jr. was set to graduate from basic training, Frankie Sr. and Christy set off on the eight-hour drive to San Antonio, Texas. The trip was difficult for Frankie Sr., and it was about to get a whole lot more challenging.
When they arrived at their rental, they discovered that Frankie Sr.’s breathing machine had broken.
We didn’t have a backup machine. We ended up in the emergency room. The doctors told me I would not survive very long if I left the ER without a new machine. It was the middle of the night. There wasn’t any way to get a machine until the next day at the earliest. My heart was broken. My son had excelled in basic training and I was going to break my promise to him.
After a long, stressful night in the hospital, Frankie Sr. and Christy held out hope that by some miracle, a new machine would show up. As the night wore on, finding a replacement unit seemed more and more unlikely.
At the last minute, less than an hour before the graduation ceremony was set to begin, Frankie Sr.’s prayers were finally answered.
At 9:03 a.m., a gentleman walked into our hospital room. He worked for a company called RQS, they had received a call early that morning about us and showed up at the hospital with a new machine. We had received our miracle.
The family raced towards the graduation grounds and arrived just minutes before the tap out ceremony began. Although Frankie Sr. was exhausted and hungry from their turbulent night, as soon as he saw his soldier son standing before him, he found that another miracle was about to occur.
I decided when it was time to tap my son out that I wanted to get out of my power wheelchair and take a few steps and walk to my son. I was overwhelmed with pride for my country, for my son and I know I didn’t take those steps alone. God was with me. We made it, and it was a miracle.
“It was the most beautiful and memorable event I’ve ever witnessed in my life and I will never forget it as long as I live,” Christy said.
Thankfully, Mom caught it all on camera and it’s impossible to watch the video of the proud U.S. soldier tapping out his son without getting misty, especially after you’ve learned how much effort it took for this moment to happen.
We’re so glad the Sanchez family was able to share this moment with us. It’s a reminder to never take one second of this life for granted.
Watch the moment for yourself in the video below, and be sure to share to make someone smile today.