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The youngest soldier proudly takes the oath page 2
Tom Sileo's op-ed column on The Unknown Soldiers: The Youngest Soldier

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


As the soldier and young boy spoke face-to-face while separated by thousands of miles, Khalil could temporarily forget about his dreadful illness. For about 10 minutes, Khalil's wish of speaking to a real-life soldier was finally realized. Unbeknownst to the elated child, though, an even bigger dream was about to be fulfilled.

"When I told him I have a couple of my friends waiting outside for [him], he had a look of amazement," James said.

As Khalil, who walks with crutches, made his way to the front of his family's home to see what James was talking about, the soldier sat at a computer station in Kuwait, eagerly awaiting what he knew was coming next. About 40 U.S. Army Reserve soldiers from Maryland's Fort Meade, along with neighbors and camera crews, were waiting to greet Khalil.

"To see him step out on the front stairs all those people," James said. "It gave me joy to see the happiness on his face."

As soldiers and supporters clapped and cried, Khalil was asked to raise his right hand after the singing of the National Anthem. The young boy, who never thought he'd have the chance to meet a soldier, let alone become one, then took the U.S. Armed Forces Oath of Enlistment. Khalil is now an honorary soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve.

"It meant a lot to us and definitely other people who had a part in making this happen," James said.

Early this year, James will come home after completing another overseas deployment. Given the soldier's extraordinary efforts to bring happiness to a sick boy and his loved ones, it wasn't surprising to hear what he plans to do upon returning to American soil.

"I'm hoping to actually meet Khalil and his family," the soldier said.

Every day, the men and women of the U.S. military and their families serve, sacrifice, and sometimes suffer while defending our freedom and security.

Maj. Norland James has spent 13 years protecting those ideals. Thanks to this compassionate soldier and his fellow troops, it is an honor to introduce you to the newest member of America's remarkable military community.

His name is Khalil Quarles.

Tom Sileo is a columnist for Creators Syndicate.

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