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The youngest soldier proudly takes the oath
Tom Sileo's op-ed column on The Unknown Soldiers: The Youngest Soldier

 U.S. Army Reserve captains meet Khalil Quarles, 10, in Baltimore.
COURTESY OF MARK BELL
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Date published: 1/10/2013

ATLANTA

--Khalil Quarles loves the U.S. military. Not only does the 10-year-old boy idolize those who serve, but he has dreamed for years about putting on his country's uniform.

"He has Army figurines and talks about the Army all the time," U.S. Army Maj. Norland James told The Unknown Soldiers from Kuwait on Dec. 21. "He would love it if he could have a picture from an Army soldier or become an Army soldier himself."

Tragically, a terrible disease stands between Khalil and his dreams. The young boy, who lives in Baltimore, is suffering from terminal cancer. So when Maj. James heard about Khalil through a friend who works as a hospice nurse, the deployed soldier decided to act.

"We wanted to make his dreams come true," James said.

The 37-year-old soldier, who is serving in Kuwait as chief of medical logistics operations, has devoted the last 13 years of his life to the Army. The Albany, Ga., native, who has also been to Afghanistan twice, just spent another holiday season apart from his family and friends.

Amid the continuing sacrifices of military service, James remains intensely appreciative of civilians who support the men and women of the armed forces. When presented with a chance to brighten what could be Khalil's last holiday season, the soldier knew it was his opportunity to give back.

"It's one thing to say 'thank you' with words, but it's another thing to say 'thank you' with actions coming behind it," James said.

Six days before Christmas, a nurse told Khalil that someone special was waiting to talk to him on Skype.

"He was like 'Wow, I can't believe it, I'm talking to an Army soldier in Kuwait who's deployed,'" James said.

The soldier will never forget the boy's reaction.

"Just seeing the look in his eyes you can't describe it," James said. "It was amazing and it made me smile."


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