An 8-year-old boy whose father is a Camp Pendleton drill sergeant died Sunday, one day after the youngster was made an honorary Marine.
Wyatt Gillette suffered from Aicardi-Goutières syndrome, a rare genetic disease that caused his kidneys to fail and left him with several other debilitating conditions.
The San Clemente boy was bestowed the honor by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller after an online petition asked for the boy to be granted the rare recognition.
“I truly feel that Wyatt has faced more hardship than any Marine has gone through, and for that should be given the title,” wrote the fellow Marine who started the effort.
And Neller agreed, saying the fight that the little boy has been battling was “absolutely Marine.” And, he tweeted, that it was an easy decision to make.
Wyatt was honored Saturday at a ceremony on the base, where he was presented with a pin and a framed certificate and a salute as his father, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Gillette, and mom Felishia looked on.
“The ‘Honorary Marine’ title reinforces the special bond between the American people and the Corps by recognizing individuals in the civilian community who have made extraordinary contributions to the Marine Corps. Wyatt met the criteria because of his terminal condition,” base officials said in a news release.
His father, who is with the 2nd Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, said that his son died Sunday morning at 10:06 a.m. and that he was in peace, and pain-free.
A fund has been set up to help the family with funeral costs.
Wyatt is the 96th recipient of the award since the honor began in 1992, according to the Marine Corps.
Baker writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
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