Ten-year-old Khalil Quarles has wanted to join the army for years. But after an aggressive form of soft tissue cancer attacked his leg and began spreading to his lungs last year, his family decided not to continue treating the disease in “so Khalil can have the best quality of life possible, being a 10-year-old child and enjoying his life.”
Quarles would not be able to realize his dream.
At least that would have been the case if it hadn’t been for an Albany-born Army major deployed in Kuwait.
According to the Albany Herald, Maj. Norland James spoke to Quarles over Skype after a friend of his who is a nurse at Gilchrest Hospice Center in Baltimore — where the 10-year-old spends most of his time — told her about the boy and how he loved the idea of being in the army.
James said he liked the idea of being able to video chat with Quarles, but he wanted to do more than that. He spoke to some servicemen from Ft. Meade, which is near the hospice, and arranged for a surprise for Quarles.
James and Quarles spoke for about 15 minutes before James told the child to go outside. When he did, there were about 25 military and civilian personnel standing outside his home. Quarles, who was already dressed in military fatigues, sat in front of American flag and was then approached by Captain Brandon Crawford.
“It came to my attention that one of your lifelong ambitions was to become a soldier,” Crawford said. “So I brought a few of my troops here to make you an honorary member of the United States Army. What do you think of that?”
Quarles smiled and nodded. His dream was finally coming true.
As the 10-year-old stood on his crutches in front of Old Glory, Crawford swore him into the Army.
When asked what he thought the most important thing about being a soldier was, Quarles replied, “Protecting people.” As his now-fellow soliders cheered, he added with a smile, “Hoo rah.”
Quarles then took a ride in a Humvee and posed for a picture with the other soldiers. The soldiers also surprised the boy and his younger siblings with Christmas presents.
When a reporter asked Quarles how it felt to be a member of the US Army, the boy was speechless. All he could do was smile.
Crawford said about the 10-year-old, “This guy is tough. He’s like what a real soldier is about. That’s why we’re happy to induct him into the Army.”
[Photo credit: 200th Military Police Command]