MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marines are the cream of the crop and earning that coveted title is a great honor and a privilege.
Hunter Box, 11, from Dunlap, Tenn., joined the ranks of the few and the proud after being bestowed the title of Honorary Marine by Maj. Gen. Robert C. Dickerson, commanding general, Marine Corps Base, at a ceremony June 28 at
“Since he was four, he wanted to be a Marine,” said Hunter’s father, Fritz P. Box. “I’m proud as can be.”
Hunter is terminally ill with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic disorder that occurs in approximately two in 10,000 people. According to statistics Hunter will not survive his teenage years as the illness has already progressed to a state confining him to a wheel chair, according to Capt. Mark Evans, the plans officer for Training and Operations, MCB.
After being presented the title of Honorary Marine, Box took a tour of different sites on the base and was able to experience many different things some Marines do on a daily basis.
“I want him to experience some of the things I experienced when I was in (the Marine Corps),” his father said.
Hunter’s first stop was at 2d Tank Battalion, 2d Marine Division, for a familiarization ride in an M1A1 Abrams main battle tank. He was also given a coin from the Company C commander, 1st Lt. Joe Cash. Hunter was also given a rank insignia from each of the tank crewmembers, the battalion commander and a tank leader.
“We are honored to do this. This is why we are Marines, for people like Hunter,” said Lt. Col. Don C. Morse, the battalion commander for 2d Tank Battalion. “For all the demonstrations we give, these are the most rewarding because we have helped him achieve his dreams.”
After the demonstration, the new Marine took a ride in a light armored vehicle, which took him on a 15-mile ride around the base.
“This makes me feel really good,” said his mother, Angie. “It’s something he has looked forward to a long time.”
Hunter’s dream was to be like his dad, who is a former Marine who served as a machine gunner and got out in 1987. Hunter likes to watch a lot of movies about Marines and has wanted to be one since he was younger, according to his father.
“My favorite movie is Heartbreak Ridge with Clint Eastwood,” Hunter said.
Hunter ate at the 8th Marines Dining Facility, and shot various types of weapons at the indoor simulated marksmanship trainer. He received an equipment orientation and familiarization ride with crew on a river assault craft.
Hunter observed different types of helicopters as they performed simulated strafing runs.
“I was most looking forward to going in the helicopter,” Hunter said.
As the day wore on, Sgt. Maj. Charles E. Tucker, the base sergeant major, presented Hunter the Marine Corps colors. The colors had been flown at the Beirut Memorial.
“He has always talked about being a Marine, and he has always had the heart of a Marine,” his father said. “He’s happy. He’s really, really happy.”