An 8-year-old boy who suffered from a rare disorder that affects the brain and immune system was made an honorary Marine just a day before he passed away.
Wyatt Gillette was diagnosed with Aicardi-Goutieres Syndrome when he was 4 years old, according to People. Before he died, he was on dialysis and was taking 15 different medications every day.
"He's the toughest kid I've ever met," Wyatt's father, Jeremiah, told People. "He's the toughest person I've ever met."
When Wyatt entered hospice care with only days left to live, Jeremiah, who is a Marine drill instructor, asked his fellow Marines to pray for his son. He and his wife, Felishia, did not anticipate the response they received.
"I just started crying," Felishia said. "So many people and strangers took an interest."
Marine Anthony North took it a step further, drawing up a petition on Change.org to make Wyatt an honorary member of the Marine Corps.
"I truly feel that Wyatt has faced more hardship than any Marine has gone through, and for that [he] should be given the title," the petition said. "I have seen more Marines come together because of him, and feel he has truly earned the right to be among the best fighting force in the world."
The petition was a success, with over 4,600 people signing on, and on the morning of July 30, a ceremony was held in which Wyatt was awarded an honorary membership.
"He has fought harder in the last almost eight years than I will ever have to," Jeremiah said, according to Independent Journal. "If I earned the title, I believe he has as well."
As Jeremiah sees it, his wife is the reason why Wyatt lived as long as he did.
"Wyatt's lived for almost eight years now," he said. "And I know for a fact that would not have happened if it wasn't for [Felishia]. The way she's fought… it's amazing what a woman can do when she's determined."
On July 31, one day after becoming an honorary Marine, Wyatt passed away. The lessons he taught his father will live on.
"He's taught me love," Jeremiah said. "He's taught me to see the good in people."