A 7-year-old boy suffering from a rare disorder died on Sunday, one day after receiving the rare title of honorary Marine — and just shy of his eighth birthday.
Wyatt Gillette was honored during a ceremony at the Marine Corps Base Camp in Pendleton, Calif., on Saturday after his father, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Gillette, reached out to fellow Marines last month for prayers and support, the New York Times reported.
One Marine, in turn, created a petition to bestow the honorary title on Wyatt, who had Aicardi-Goutieres syndrome, which affects the brain, immune system and skin. The petition quickly gained traction among service members on social media and was approved by Gen. Robert B. Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps. At Saturday’s ceremony, Wyatt, became the 96th person to receive the title since the program began in 1992, according to the Times.
“You have fought long and hard for yourself and your family, and your strength has inspired all of us that are here today,” First Sgt. Cristo Gomez told Wyatt during the ceremony, the Times reported. “You have proven that you have what it takes to become part of America’s warrior elite, and you have earned the title of honorary Marine.”
While Wyatt’s mother, Felishia Gillette, sat by his side, his father thanked the group for coming together on his son’s behalf.
“With everything going on around the world today, and especially in our country, this is kind of a breath of fresh air,” his said. “It’s restored my faith in humanity, and a little bit in what our country stands for.”
The Times reported that Wyatt died Sunday morning, a few weeks before what would have been his eighth birthday, “peaceful and pain free,” his father said.