CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Marines here were greeted by two special guests the morning of Aug. 2. Although one was an easily recognizable Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter, he was not the guest of honor.
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson was welcomed aboard Camp Lejeune not to teach Marines about mix martial arts, but for a much higher purpose.
Like Marines and cage fighters, Austin Saxton has endured beatings and come back with a smile fit for a champion.
At the age of 14, while most kids would be out playing, or possibly getting in trouble for petty things, he was diagnosed with cancer in both his pancreas and liver.
He spent most of last Christmas vacation in the hospital, and almost had his 15th birthday there as well.
The uniqueness of his situation required that the cancer be treated differently than usual. Chemo therapy wreaked havoc on Austin’s body, causing ulcers to form in his mouth, throat and nose. His immune system would deplete, he needed transfusions, and lost weight.
Austin had two dreams in life: to be a Marine like his father, and to meet a real UFC fighter. Through efforts by Marine Capt. Lee Stuckey, the company commander for Transportation and Support Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, A HERO Foundation, Stephen Thompson, and many others, Austin was able to make those dreams a reality.
“[As Marines,] we sign up to do what we do and lead tough lives … Austin didn’t sign up to have cancer,” said Stuckey. “I wanted to do as much as I could for him and make his experience here an overwhelming one.”
Stuckey is a professional cage fighter and the CEO for A HERO Foundation, so through the contacts he has made over the years he was able to contact Thompson, who made the 7 hour drive to Camp Lejeune after he finished training at 10 p.m. just to spend a few days with Austin and the Marines. During Austin’s visit he was company commander for the day, got to explore vehicles and aircraft, was able to experience what it would feel like to be on a convoy in Afghanistan and fly in a Cobra Helicopter via simulators aboard Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River. He was also awarded a plaque for being a warrior by Lt. Col. William Stophel, the commanding officer of CLB-2, and was given a flight suit from the Marines of Marine Corps Air Station New River.
The Marines of Transportation Support Co. were so moved by Austin and his strength and courage through his fight with cancer that some of them even awarded him their ribbons.
“Seeing my Marines’ faces when Austin came out was incredible,” said Stuckey. “They were humbled … even Purple Heart recipients gave him their ribbons.”
The day after Austin’s visit, Austin, Stephen and Stuckey went fishing on a friend’s boat.
“It feels pretty good to have the support of the Marines at Camp Lejeune and MCAS New River,” said Austin. “This experience is something I will never forget and I will always remember the Marines and their stories and support when I am having a hard time, for the rest of my life.”
Stuckey said that although he did his part, he couldn’t have made the day a complete success without the help of his company first sergeant, and his fellow Marines.
Austin also wanted to thank everyone who was involved in organizing the event and for making it so special for him.
“Marines never give up, and neither will I,” said Austin. Austin was diagnosed cancer free July 12 and is on the road to recovery.