FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Richard Culliver, a 7-year-old boy battling
an inoperable brain tumor, took his place on Hilton Field with the
rest of the Army's new Soldiers during the regular graduation ceremony
on December 5, 2013.
By anyone's definition,
Richard's time at Fort Jackson was hectic. He arrived Wednesday with
his family, anticipating a superficial tour of the installation.
After having lunch with drill sergeants, he quickly found himself
going through the paces of the kinds of Basic Combat Training
exercises most likely to appeal to boys.
Richard Culliver, 7, sits on the knee of Staff Sgt. David
Schible, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Army Training
Center, during Dec. 5, 2013 graduation ceremonies at Hilton Field.
Culliver was diagnosed in October, 2012, with an inoperable brain
tumor called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. Richard was granted a
wish to be a Soldier for a day. (U.S. Army photos by Wallace McBride
combined by USA Patriotism!)
"They asked him what he wanted to do," said his mother,
Stephanie McMillan. "He wanted to crawl in the mud. He
mentioned it a couple of times, and the drill sergeants were
like, 'Let's go!'"
Richard was diagnosed in October,
2012, with an inoperable brain tumor called Diffuse
Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG. The tumor is at the base
of his brain stem and has had a catastrophic impact on
Richard's motor skills.
"Children usually have about
12 months, if they're doing well," his mother said. "This
tumor will inhibit his ability to breathe, eat, drink ...
all of his motor skills. He hasn't walked in a year."
Still, his impairment didn't keep him from getting the
most from his experience at Fort Jackson.
crawled through (the mud) once and said he wanted to do it
again," McMillan said. "He did it twice, and it was
Richard took part in physical training with
other Soldiers, visited the top of Victory Tower, and fired
the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000, an automated simulator
that provides realistic weapons qualification for Soldiers.
He also visited McEntire Joint National Guard Base, where he
met with pilots and spent some time on a flight simulator.
"Richard's always loved servicemen and women: The
military, the fire department, the police ... I think it has
something to do with how he loves people who want to help
and do better for other people," McMillan said. "This was
just a natural thing from him to want to do."
the case with most new Soldiers, Richard's experience on
post ended with a graduation. He took his place alongside
the ceremony's honor graduates, as well as a retiring
"Today, I have the beginning of some
new careers, the end of an old career and a brand new PFC in
the Army, and a number of drill sergeants who are in their
Lt. Col. J.C. Glick, 2nd Battalion, 39th
Infantry Regiment commander, noted during his commencement
speech on December 5, 2013. Richard was met with thunderous applause
as Brig. Gen. Bradley Becker, Fort Jackson's commanding
general, promoted the child to the rank of private first
"I thought we were coming for a little tour,
to get a little look behind the scenes," McMillan said. "I
had no idea it was going to be as big as it was.
Experiencing it in person was just ... you can't put it into
words. He's not stopped talking about it. He's been ordering
me around since he spent time with the drill sergeants. It
was everything to him. It was magical."
an MRI showed Richard's tumor had decreased "significantly"
in size during 2013, she said. Her son is taking part in
both physical and speech therapy, and his mobility has
improved in recent months.
"Right now, we're a little
more relaxed," she said. "A year ago, I didn't think we'd be
here today. A year ago, I would have thought he'd already
have gone to heaven. The fact that it shrunk, and we saw
shrinkage 10 months after radiation and no further medical
treatment at all, was just a miracle. It doesn't mean that
it won't grow again, but right now we're not focused on
By Army Wallace McBride
Army News Service
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