Teen with cancer gets look at Army life

Dec. 12, 2012 at 5:15 PM   |   Comments

FORT KNOX, Ky., Dec. 12 (UPI) -- A Belgian teenager who lost an arm to cancer was treated to a taste of U.S. Army basic training this week at Fort Knox in Kentucky.

Antoine Brisbois' trip to Fort Knox was arranged by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal reported. Antoine, 17, said he has dreamed about being a U.S. soldier since he heard his grandfather's stories about the liberation of Belgium during World War II.

At Fort Knox, Antoine got to wear an Army uniform, eat field rations and even participate in a mock operation in an Afghan village fabricated from shipping containers. He said it was an "honor to wear the uniform."

Antoine, who grew up in Gerpinnes, a small village near the French border, was diagnosed with bone cancer when he was 12. One arm had to be amputated and replaced with a prosthetic.

His mother, Isabelle Francois, said the cancer is now in remission. But she said there could be a recurrence.

"It's his dream. He has gone through very hard and painful moments," she said in French through an interpreter as she watched Antoine with the soldiers. "He has been courageous just like a real soldier."

A Make-A-Wish representative said the request from Antoine's family, first made three years ago, was unusual. Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Roszko, who helped plan Antoine's visit, described it as a "first."

Antoine himself said he first thought the letter from the foundation telling him he was getting his wish was a joke.

Plans for Wednesday included a ride in an Apache helicopter and getting a commission as an honorary lieutenant.

"I had only seen this in books. Now I really see," Antoine said. "I'm extremely happy."

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