With Marine dreams derailed by rare cancer, young man finds another way to serve

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK (HawaiiNewsNow) - This week the NBC Nightly News segment 'Those Who Serve' took a look at the story of a young man who grew up in Hawaii and was practically born to serve his country.  However his dream to join the military was cut short by something he never saw coming.

Matthew Pierce was born of the 9/11 generation.

The images of the falling towers that stood here seared in his memory

That day he was five years old, and growing up at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe.

His mother, Christine Farley, says she knew early on he would want to enlist, "He would dress up in every military uniform possible that I could find at a store to buy and just loved all of it."

Those days after 9/11 cemented his desire.

Pierce said, "The Marines were the ones you know standing around our school and protecting us and everything so that really kinda stuck with me."

He set his sights on becoming a Marine officer, enrolling in a private military college.

But the summer after his freshman year he discovered a bump on the back of his head turned out to be a rare type of bone cancer.

Matt endured a 10 hour surgery, to remove part of his skull, 14  rounds of chemo, and 28 radiation treatment.

It would end his dream.

"You gotta pick yourself up and figure out how to fix the problem or you know find a different solution," Pierce said in an interview with Lester Holt of NBC.

Matt has a new goal: to serve by becoming a federal law enforcement officer.

Matt's doctors at Boston's Brigham and Womens Hospital are so impressed by him, they arranged a skydive with the all veterans group.

Even if only for a day, Matt would be a member of the military.

Soaring through the sky attached to Mike Elliot, a veteran of more than 13,000 jumps including three with President Bush 41.

"I'm honestly truly honored, Pierce said, "It's so amazing."

A young man whose life-threatening illness didn't' stop him from finding another way to serve.

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