Army Maj. Gen. Russell Czerw, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, installation commander, promotes 5-year-old Gavin Cox to the honorary rank of sergeant with help from Gavin's father, Troy Heminger (right), and Sgt. Maurice Sims, command retention noncommissioned officer, March 18, 2008. Gavin became a soldier for the day at Fort Sam Houston through the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Photo by Ed Dixon
By Phil Reidinger, Fort Sam Houston Public Affairs Office
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - Gavin Cox could have traveled to any exotic locale or tried any profession in the world, but this 5-year-old with leukemia had just one wish: to be a soldier.
His wish was granted March 18 when he became a soldier for the day here.
"He could have chosen any activity during this break in his treatments, to include Disney World," said Gavin's father, Troy Heminger. "He wanted to be a soldier."
During a solemn ceremony in the Army Medical Department Center and School command conference room, the little boy stood proudly on the conference room table surrounded by soldiers of all ranks. Dressed in an Army combat uniform, Gavin was promoted to the honorary rank of sergeant in the Army Medical Department by the installation commander, Army Maj. Gen. Russell Czerw.
Contacted by the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Czerw agreed to honor the boy's request, planning a day for him to train with the Army's medics.
After reciting the Army's enlistment oath with him, Czerw pinned the rank of sergeant on his uniform and emphasized to the young man standing at attention, "This is a great day. Thank you for making this day special for us." He then inducted Gavin as an honorary member of the AMEDD Regiment.
Army Master Sgt. Maurice Sims, command retention noncommissioned officer, presented the Cox family members, including sister Jade and brothers Chandler and Zane, with Warrior Ethos packs, recognizing their role in helping their father, Troy, and mother, Melissa, during Gavin's chemotherapy.
The training day for Sergeant Cox began with a trip in a tactical vehicle to the ES 2000 weapons training facility, where he earned his marksmanship badge. He then took a break from training to join soldiers at the Rocco Dining Facility.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Joey Wrinkle stood outside with a platoon of soldiers assigned to 187th Medical Battalion representing all the medical specialties trained by the battalion. Assigned to the platoon for lunch, Sergeant Cox led the guidon bearer and the formation into the dining facility.
"I presented him with my airborne wings. He is strong and brave like an airborne soldier, and he deserves to be recognized. This is about what we do as soldiers," Wrinkle said.
During lunch, soldiers stopped by to wish Gavin well and present their own badges to him. He left the dining facility with air assault and expert medic badges added to his uniform.
At his next stop on the training schedule, he visited the Department of Combat Medic Training and watched soldier-medics training with a human patient simulator. He completed the day learning how patients are loaded on a Stryker ambulance and transferred to hospital units.
During the day, Gavin's parents watched their son talking to soldiers and enjoying his day with them. Troy Heminger served on active duty for nine years with 1110th Support Battalion and 58th Signal Battalion as a microwave systems operations and maintenance specialist. "He is having fun," he said, watching the boy interact with soldiers. "He is forgetting about his illness for a while."
After spending the day with Army medics, Gavin and his family left San Antonio the next day for Fort Hood, Texas, where honorary Sergeant Cox would spend another day in the Army as a soldier with the Army's combat units.
Following his week as a soldier, Gavin was scheduled for intensified chemotherapy at Dallas Children's Hospital.