Wyatt Seth Gillette, a terminally-ill California boy who was named an honorary Marine on Saturday, died the day after the ceremony, the Marine Corps Times is reporting. Wyatt’s father, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Gillette, confirmed on Sunday that the 8-year-old had died.
Ever since he was old enough to talk, Wyatt had wanted to be a Marine like his dad. Unfortunately, the young boy was diagnosed at birth Aicardi-Goutieres Syndrome Type 1 (Trex 1 Mutation), a rare genetic disorder that attacks the nervous system, according to a post on crowdfunding site YouCaring.
“With this syndrome its amazing Wyatt has made it this far. The syndrome causes many other conditions which have to be treated such as: diabetes, seizures, g-tube feeds, body temp regulations, cerebral palsy, and many more. Even with all these obstacles, Wyatt has made it through all of this by the love and support he has in his life, so thank you to everyone who has been there!”
So sad to hear the news about little Wyatt Gillette, but glad he was able to receive his EGA https://t.co/QNdilhIhrd pic.twitter.com/fpuseNxlys
— Gina Harkins (@GinaAHarkins) August 1, 2016
Fortunately, the Marine Corps has had, since 1992, a program that allows individuals deemed worthy to be named honorary Marines. The honor is not given out lightly: only 96 people have been given in the honor in the quarter of a century since the program has been in place.
For Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, the decision to name Wyatt an honorary Marine — following an online petition to give the young boy the honor — was an easy one.
“One of the easiest decisions yet as CMC was to make this 8-yr old a Marine. Keep fighting, Wyatt! You are a Marine!”
In a ceremony Saturday at Camp Pendleton, California, Wyatt, dressed in his child-sized Marine Corps Battle Dress Uniform (BDU), Wyatt was given his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor — the traditional regalia given when one is officially deemed a Marine — and then a “smart salute.”
Commandant Neller tweeted pictures of the event.
One of the easiest decisions yet as CMC was to make this 8-yr old a Marine. Keep fighting, Wyatt! You are a Marine! pic.twitter.com/bSDrEHcc3c
— Robert B. Neller (@GenRobertNeller) July 30, 2016
“The courageous fight that Wyatt continues is absolutely ‘Marine.’ Wyatt is the epitome of Semper Fidelis, and we are hoping and praying for him and his family.”
By Friday, the day before Wyatt’s induction ceremony, it was clear to his mother, Felishia Gillette, that her days with her son were numbered.
“When we go home [from the hospital] we will have about 5 –14 days with Wyatt… we plan to take Wyatt on a drive in the truck because its Wyatts truck and he loves it, let him ride his bike one last time… im going to miss how excited he gets when i say the word ‘bike’. Give him lots of baths because my baby is a water baby, watch a bunch of movies and cuddle in bed, create a memory box, spend time outside in the sun because wyatt loves being outside SO much, spend time looking up at the stars, and doing anything and everything we can think of that he loves to do or that we never got a chance to do.”
Now that Wyatt has passed away, his family has begun raising money for his funeral. Donations are pouring into the crowdfunding site set up in his name, with well-wishers donating amounts big and small, from a few bucks to several hundred.
As of this writing, the family of honorary Marine Wyatt Seth Gillette has raised over $13,000 towards their goal of $15,000 for his funeral.
[Image via Shutterstock/Straight 8 Photography]