A Heartfelt Wish
Antoine, a 17-year-old from Belgium, has one dream: to be a U.S. Soldier. Battling bone cancer, Antoine developed a passion for the U.S. military from his grandfather’s stories about World War II and the arrival of U.S. Soldiers in Belgium.
In a letter to Make-A-Wish, Antoine wrote, “I have always dreamed about meeting American soldiers and visiting a U.S. military base. I would like to become a soldier.”
In December, Antoine’s heartfelt wish came true.
Becoming a Soldier
Antoine and his family traveled more than 4,000 miles to Fort Knox, Kentucky where he spent two days fully experiencing the life of American soldiers. After being ceremonially recruited to the army, Antoine received his very own uniform.
Units stationed at Fort Knox rallied together to help make Antoine’s wish come true including the: 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, 703rd Explosives Ordnance Company, and the 11th Aviation Command.
Morning came early at the base. Antoine was up at dawn to complete his athletic training with fellow soldiers. From there, he met with members of the 3/1 IBCT to perform a drill simulating a real life combat mission. He even got to ride in an armored truck!
In an interview with the local news, Antoine said, “I am extremely happy. It’s a beautiful uniform,” Antoine told reporters. “It’s an extreme honor to wear the American uniform.”
Following a few group photos to celebrate his successful mission, Antoine received further training with electronic simulators. Working up an appetite, Antoine then joined his fellow soldiers for a hearty meal in the cafeteria. It was a special moment in the cafeteria when soldiers approached Antoine in the lunchroom to give him patches from their own uniforms to show their support for his bravery.
After lunch, Antoine toured the barracks to see how real soldiers live on base. He then met with soldiers of the 703rd Explosives Ordnance Disposal unit to locate and disarm “potential” threats on base. Under their guidance and support, he had the opportunity to operate robots the unit use in real life to disarm explosive devices.
On Antoine’s second day at Fort Knox, he joined the 11th Aviation Command to hear the soldiers’ stories of what it’s like to fly for the U.S. military. The soldiers even let Antoine sit in an apache attack helicopter!
The Magic of a Granted Wish
To reward Antoine for his bravery in the medical battles he’s faced and the simulated battles he rallied through as a soldier on the base, the U.S. Army surprised Antoine with a great honor: a promotion to an honorary second lieutenant!
Antoine’s time at Fort Knox culminated with a surprise meeting with General Henry L. Huntley and Major General Jefforey A. Smith. They each presented him with awards, and a special plaque, that mixed photos of his grandfather’s time in the army, the inspiration for Antoine’s wish, with images of Antoine’s time as a soldier at Fort Knox.
Antoine’s mother expressed her appreciation to reporter Chris Kenning of The Courier-Journal, “It’s his dream. He has gone through very hard and painful moments. He has been courageous just like a real soldier.”