Like Soldiers before him, his first stop on post was the 30th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception). Unlike the others, Chris is 16-years-old, and has been battling osteosarcoma for a year.
"Probably nothing in my life will ever match this, unless I actually get into the military," said Chris. "I'm being treated like an honorary member. I kind of just asked to come here - do an obstacle course, shoot a few guns, get sent home. I underestimated 100 percent. With all they've done for me, it's incredible."
Chris’ military visit started Wednesday with in-processing on Sand Hill. He received the full trainee treatment - a haircut, ID tags, boot fitting, personalized uniform. His family watched him take the oath of enlistment.
Col. Terry McKenrick, 192nd Infantry Brigade commander said that seeing him sworn in was a special moment for Soldiers like himself and the brigade's senior noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. Clyde Glenn. Both have given more than two decades of their lives to serve their country.
"He thinks we're doing something special for him, but really he's doing much more for all of us by motivating and inspiring us," McKenrick explained. "When you think about the Army’s values he has demonstrated by what he has accomplished over the past years, it makes us so proud to serve.” McKenrick hopes Chris returns to Fort Benning, but next time as a full-fledged American Soldier.
In his few days on Fort Benning, Chris rode in a Black Hawk helicopter; observed physical training and combatives; fired a rifle, machine gun and sniper rifle; climbed inside a Bradley and Stryker; rappelled down Eagle Tower; maneuvered a simulated vehicle in the Close Combat Tactical Trainer; and wrapped up his visit with the Best Ranger Competition.
Chris has been interested in the military since early childhood. When he was diagnosed with cancer last year, that interest became inspiration. He wore a shirt bearing the Soldier's Creed and kept an Army Strong T-shirt hanging on the wall while he went through chemotherapy. Because of the cancer, he had to have his knee and 8 inches of his femur removed and replaced with a prosthesis.
"It was pretty much the military that got him through chemo - that whole motto 'stay strong,'" his mother said. "They allowed him to be a Soldier for a week and that's an absolute wish come true. That was his dream, to be in the military."
"I just have this fascination with Soldiers: their creed, their motto, their honor. That's what I like, the history of it, the bravado of it all," he said. "If I'm not able to do any of this because of medical reasons, I got to do it now and that's probably the best thing I could ever ask for. It gives me encouragement.”
"It was quite an emotional event," said Lt. Col. Chris Willis, 2nd Battalion, 46th commander of the Infantry Regiment. "Chris and his brother completed the course in 12 minutes, while our platoons of Soldiers took at least 19 minutes each. The B Company Soldiers cheered 'Chris, Chris, Chris' while he navigated the obstacles and spontaneously broke out in the Soldier's Creed at one point. It was the highlight of the week for Command Sergent Major Brown and myself. The family was extremely appreciative and could not believe how much the Army was doing. The funny thing is we probably enjoyed it more than they did.”