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Navy sailor fulfills veteran grandfather’s wish to see him one last time

Cancer cannot cripple love. It cannot shatter hope. And it cannot silence courage.

Love. Hope. Courage. Those are three words that can describe the bond of a Navy sailor and his veteran grandfather.

Braeden traveled 20 hours from the Pacific to say goodbye to Don, who is battling Stage 4 cancer, and it took an army to make it happen. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room during the reunion.

There was a whole lot of love in the room when Braeden reunited with his grandfather at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) on Thursday.

Braeden’s long journey ended at RSW after an exchange of messages through the American Red Cross got him there so that he could see his beloved grandfather one last time.

After a 14-hour plane ride and a drive to a house on Clear Water Lane where the American Flag waves high, U.S. Navy sailor Braeden Schneider arrived to grant one of his grandfather’s last wishes.

“Hey, big boy! How are you doing?” Don McKinley asked his grandson. “Give me a big hug. Oh, my God.”

Braeden’s grandfather, Don, is a U.S. Army veteran himself. Now, he’s terminally ill. So after more than a year without seeing Braeden, Don just needed one more time, one more time, to share his love for classic cars with his grandson, one last time to hold his hand, one last time to hug his very own American hero.

“I’m so proud of you,” McKinley told his grandson.

“I’m just glad that I could last until my man got here to see me before I did pass,” McKinley said.

“I didn’t think I’d ever probably see him again, so it made me feel better,” Braeden said.

The reunion didn’t happen overnight. Don’s girlfriend, April, worked with the American Red Cross to send an emergency message to Braeden’s ship out in the Pacific to let him know just how much his grandfather needed to see him.

“I got Don the wish of a lifetime,” April Love Ulfig said.

“I can see my grandson for the last time,’’ Don said. “That’s the main thing.”

Don’s two granddaughters and son-in-law also came to be by his side. He said he is deeply grateful to the American Red Cross and their emergency communications department for getting his grandson home.

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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