HOUSTON -

For Forrest Dowling, Marine graduation is more than graduation. It's carrying on the legacy of his dad: Houston Fire Department captain and former Marine "Iron Bill" Dowling.

"I remember one day when he sat me down and said it would be one of the proudest moments of his life whenever I graduated Marine Corps boot camp and walk across Shepherd's Field," said Forrest Dowling.

And as Forrest made that walk, Iron Bill was there to see it all.

But getting to this day wasn't easy for either Forrest or his dad. Their struggles were much different, but they were both centered on survival, strength and love.

While Forrest spent three months battling the daily fight of boot camp, Iron Bill battled, too. Local 2's Bill Balleza watched him work to overcome his devastating injuries just to become strong enough to make the trip.

Then, fellow Marines, firefighters and Houstonians honored that strength by putting together a trip of a lifetime to get Bill and his family there.

On graduation day, a patriot guard guided Iron Bill every step of the way -- the final leg of a proud journey to watch his son become a Marine.

"I knew he wouldn't miss it. He'd do something miraculous to get here," said Forrest.

For the Dowlings, the day marks a Marine mission complete with emotional memories for a dad, a son and the entire Dowling family.