A Williamson teen battling cancer had a chance to wish for anything he wanted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. But as Time Warner Cable News reporter Tara Grimes shares, he only wanted to follow in his brother and father’s footsteps.
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- For as long as 16-year-old AJ Plyter’s parents can remember, they said he's always wanted to join the military. They said they first remember him talking about it when playing with his G.I. Joe action figures.
It didn’t come as a surprise for the Williamson resident however, since his older brother and father served in the Army.
“I heard a few stories from them and it sounded like a whole lot of fun, so I wanted to do the same thing,” Plyter said.
However, the dream seemed to come crumbling down last April when Plyter was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This cancer of the lymphatic system could prevent him from joining the military in the future. He underwent nearly four months of chemotherapy and two and a half weeks of radiation.
“For me it wasn’t too terrible,” Plyter said. “It’s different for everybody. I mean I obviously got sick, it just kind of brings your body down.”
Come December, doctors declared him in remission and the Make-A-Wish Foundation was asking him what his biggest dream was. Right away, Plyter knew - he wanted to become a solider.
“I think that it was just being able to do something that really nobody could ever do unless they went in,” Plyter said. “Even still most of the people that go in can’t do like the extent of things that I did because of their age or anything really.”
To his surprise, Plyter and his family were given the chance to visit Fort Drum for the day in July. First he was sworn into the Army.
“Because I was a Colonel, there was a whole bunch of people saluting me, I thought that was really funny,” Plyter said.
Then he took tests in infantry, camouflaging himself and his equipment, learned how to throw grenades, rappelled, toured helicopters and went into a flight simulator.
“I had four kind of like battle buddies assigned to me and they made me feel like I was actually in and I was their real buddy,” Plyter said.
Going even further, Rochester’s Army National Guard invited him and his family for a tour of its facility and to board a Boeing CH-47 Chinook Thursday night.
“The reception and the way he’s been treated by everyone at Fort Drum and here tonight is heartwarming to say the least,” his father Mark Plyter said.
While it will take some time to figure out if Plyter will someday be able to join the Army for more than one day, he and his parents say they feel blessed to live the dream at least for a short time.