Courageous 8-Year-Old, Fighting Rare Disorder, Becomes Honorary Marine

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Every day for the last eight years, Honorary Marine Wyatt Gillette faced a battle for survival. He earned the right to wear the same Eagle, Globe and Anchor as his father one day before his final tour of duty was completed.

As the 96th Honorary Marine to be named since the program began in 1992, Wyatt accepted his award with all the poise and dignity of a true Marine on the Camp Pendleton School of Infantry-West Parade Deck. Dressed in fatigues and seated in his wheelchair, the boy was given a framed certificate and an official USMC pin.

“Wyatt is the epitome of Semper Fidelis, and we are hoping and praying for him and his family,” said Commandant Gen. Robert Neller.

Wyatt’s father, Jeremiah Gillette, is a drill instructor with the 2nd Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. Wyatt was diagnosed just four years ago with Aicardi-Goutieres Syndrome Type 1 (Trex 1 Mutation), a rare genetic disorder that causes seizures, kidney failure, and would eventually kill him. Knowing his boy little time left, Gillette began the formal petition process in support of Wyatt joining the USMC ranks.

“Nothing could make me happier than to see my son Wyatt Seth Gillette become an honorary Marine,” he wrote online. “He has fought harder in the last almost eight years than I will ever have to. If I earned the title, I believe he has as well.”

Commandant Neller agreed.

“The courageous fight that Wyatt continues is absolutely ‘Marine,’” Neller told the Marine Corps Times on Thursday. “I hope this small gesture will bring Wyatt and his family a bit of joy during their tremendous battle.”

As Neller named Wyatt the USMC’s newest honorary member, he tweeted that it was the easiest decision he ever had to make as commandant. The following day, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Gillette confirmed that his son had died.

Wyatt’s story is one of incredible bravery, as is that of Khalil Quarles, a young boy with terminal cancer who always wanted to serve in the U.S. Army. As his disease progressed, Khalil’s dream seemed far out of reach, until the 200th Military Command showed up at his door. Follow this link to read more about his story.

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and world traveler with a background in journalism, graphic design, and French pastry. He likes to learn new things whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, folk music and coffee.