Former Sgt. Mark Dolfini stands guard outside the hospital room of Cody Green, a young cancer patient who idolized the Marine Corps, during his final hours. (image credit BRENT MARLEY)
Indianapolis (written by Gina Harkins/Marine Corps Times) -- Cody Green only lived to be 12, but he had already spent years battling a deadly disease with the fighting style of the Marines he idolized. And one former sergeant made sure a Marine was with him during his final hours.
Green was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia before his second birthday, and suffered multiple relapses throughout his short life. His father, David Snowberger of Flora, Ind., said he loved what the Marine Corps stood for, and fought as hard as he saw them fight.
Sgt. Mark Dolfini, 39, left the military more than a decade ago, but stayed active in the Marine Corps League. The former aerial navigator with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 out of Okinawa, Japan, helps raise money by standing at attention for hours at a time in public places, which he gives to Soldiers' Angels, an organization that sends comfort items to medically evacuated troops.
Dolfini, of Lafayette, Ind., heard about Green and soon got in touch with Snowberger to set up a good time to visit his son at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. But Green's immune system was down, and he was fighting an infection.
On April 27, the family told Dolfini that Green was nearing his final hour. Dolfini put on his dress blues, went to the hospital and stood guard outside Green's door for nearly eight hours.
"I did what I know," Dolfini said. "I don't think it was anything more than what anyone else would've done. It just happened to be me."
Dolfini brought Green a tabletop Marine Corps flag and his navigator wings.
"I kind of thought, 'Maybe these will help Cody find his way,' " Dolfini said.
"That would've meant everything to him," Snowberger said. "He would've been grinning ear to ear. He would've worn those wings for weeks."
The photos taken of Dolfini standing guard that night spread via the Internet. Dolfini was named the Marines' Fan of the Week on the Corps' official Facebook page in May. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has a talk show on Fox News Channel, posted about Dolfini's photo on his Facebook page, generating nearly 750,000 "likes."
Dolfini never got to know Green personally, but has become a close family friend since that night in April when he stood at attention nonstop -- only breaking to salute Green's mother whenever she left or entered the room.
"That was my role that night," Dolfini said. "I was placed there for a reason."