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Honoring a Young Friend

Mark Desmarais visting the FBI
Mark Desmarais visting the FBI

His dream was to become an FBI agent. It’s really all he ever wanted to be when he grew up. He wore his FBI T-shirt so much that his mother had to coax him to take it off every few days so she could wash it. And, after he lost a long battle with cancer at the age of nine, his parents choose to have him wear his “Junior Special Agent” badge one last time during his funeral services. They knew how much the FBI meant to him.

He meant a lot to us, too. His name was Mark Desmarais, and his bright spirit and enthusiasm for the FBI touched the hearts of those who came to know him in our Tampa field office. 

We were introduced to Mark two years ago through one of our Tampa agents. The agent, now retired, had met Mark and learned how much he wanted to be an FBI agent, so she asked for one of our Junior Special Agent badges for him. In the process, she shared his story: how Mark had been diagnosed with cancer at the tender age of two…how a tumor was later found on his kidney (which had to be removed)…how the cancer spread to his lungs…how he later developed leukemia. Through it all, his strength and courage—and his love for the FBI—never wavered. 

His story moved us, and we decided to give Mark his badge in person. So we invited him to pay us a visit in Tampa when he was strong enough. We gave him a grand tour and presented him with an FBI hat, T-shirt, and badge—along with some other smaller items. He was thrilled, of course. And we were all touched by Mark. It was an unforgettable experience. 

Mark passed away a year ago this month, a loss we felt deeply. On February 15, we paid tribute to him at the Cambridge Christian School he attended in the northern suburbs of Tampa, celebrating his life with family, his classmates, the school principal, teachers, and staff. 

Tampa Special Agent in Charge Steven Ibison (left) presents a framed memento to the parents of Mark Desmarais

Tampa Special Agent in Charge Steven Ibison (left) presenting a framed memento to the parents of Mark Desmarais

Steven Ibison, the Special Agent in Charge of our Tampa Division, told the story of how we came to know Mark and presented the school with a “shadow box” containing several mementos. The box included: the book, To Be an FBI Special Agent, written by a retired agent and signed by FBI Director Robert Mueller (Mark loved to read, so this combined two of his passions); an FBI Junior Special Agent badge and credential; a photograph of Mark taken during his visit to our office; a copy of the FBI seal; and an engraved plate reading, “In Memory of Mark Henry Desmarais, From the Men and Women of the FBI Tampa Office.”

We also presented Mark’s parents (his father, by the way, is a retired police officer, further connecting us with the family) with a large version of the photograph of Mark, and we donated several more copies of the book to the school. 

One final story about Mark: during his tour of the FBI office in Tampa, he stopped by the Staffing/Applicant Unit. He innocently asked, “Can I see my FBI application?” The quick-thinking employees told him that it was being held at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., until he was ready to be an agent. 

Sadly, that day never came, but we will never forget Mark Desmarais. 

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