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NEWS | June 11, 2024

Young Cancer Patient Made Honorary 1st Sergeant in Illinois Guard

By Lt. Col. Bradford Leighton, Joint Force Headquarters - Illinois National Guard

MARION, Ill. - Several months ago, 7-year-old Jamir Gibbs was suffering from bacterial meningitis related to his struggle with leukemia.

It was hard and painful, and her son was tired and getting discouraged, said Jamir's mother, Amanda Miller. "He's a child and having to fight through this illness. ... A child has no choice but to fight through it."

And then Jamir received a 49-second video from Illinois Army National Guard 1st Sgt. Beau Detrick, then a sergeant first class. He asked Jamir to "stay in the fight" and said his courage, perseverance and bravery are just what they look for in Soldiers.

Detrick had learned that Jamir needed encouragement from his friend, Longfellow Elementary School teacher Cayenne Hasseker.

"When you get back to Marion, I'm going to make you an honorary first sergeant of our company and I'm going to have you lead some Soldiers through some exercises," Detrick said on the video. He wanted to give him something to look forward to, some hope.

On June 8, Detrick kept that promise. The Illinois Army National Guard's November Company, Recruit Sustainment Program, Recruiting and Retention Battalion, had three ceremonies in one on June 8 at the Marion Readiness Center. Detrick assumed responsibility for the unit, 1st Sgt. Graham Young retired after nearly 29 years of military service, and 7-year-old Jamir Gibbs became the youngest honorary first sergeant in the history of the Illinois Army National Guard.

And, yes, 1st Sgt. Gibbs did "smoke" the troops during his "First Sergeant for a Day." He guided the company's Soldiers through multiple push-ups.

"Sergeant Beau sending that video ... it was something positive in something so negative," Miller said. "He talked about what it is to fight. Jamir has watched it a few times. It was really uplifting to him."

Jamir is back home in Marion for a few weeks until he must return to the St. Louis Children's Hospital for more cancer treatment. It seemed like a good time to promote him, Detrick said.

In the couple of weeks leading up to the ceremony, it grew.

The Illinois National Guard's friends in the first responder community learned about the plans to honor Jamir and decided to get involved.

"Southern Illinois is family," Miller said. "We've got each others' backs. The whole school district in Marion - they know Jamir. They know his story. We are truly blessed in our community."

On Saturday, Jamir crawled inside an Illinois State Police SWAT vehicle, tried on tactical gear, played fetch with a police dog, tried out an ISP motorcycle and a Marion Fire Department fire engine, used the "Jaws of Life" to crush a water bottle, sprayed a fire engine hose in firefighter gear, and carried a firefighter axe (under supervision, of course). He received gifts, from an Illinois Army National Guard football jersey to eight military challenge coins.

"It means everything," Miller said. "To have made these memories with him. ... To see him smiling like that. We've had some dark times this year. These moments
are beautiful."




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