A Soldier’s Fresh Recruit
ARMY SPC. LARRY HARRIS was doing community-outreach work in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when seven-year-old Xzayvier Burchardmease rushed up to him on the sidewalk—only to rush back into his house to collect something to show the soldier. It was a stuffed bear dressed in full camouflage, just as Harris was. Xzayvier’s life dream was to become a soldier, his parents explained. “They told me that because of his leg condition, he’ll never be able to,” Harris said to WZZM 13.
Xzayvier’s condition is called knee flexion contracture, in which one’s leg—the right one, in Xzayvier’s case—fails to straighten at the knee. Amputation was a real possibility, his parents told Harris. That was all the soldier needed to hear. He started to devise a remarkable plan.
A month later, in October 2016, Harris poked his head into Xzayvier’s classroom and, in front of his classmates, asked the surprised boy, “Do you want to take a ride with me?”
Outside the school, a convoy of police cars and Army Humvees was waiting. It escorted him to the Army Reserve Center, where, with family, friends, and military and law enforcement personnel looking on, Lt. Col. Melvin Bauman (Ret.) asked Xzayvier to raise his right hand and “repeat after me.” They recited the Oath of Enlistment. When they were done, Bauman stated: “On this 14th day of October, you are now an honorary soldier.” The room erupted in applause as a tear trickled down Xzayvier’s cheek.
“Today I became a soldier,” Xzayvier told WZZM. “It’s something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
The man who made it all happen, Spc. Larry Harris, said that his actions were simply part of his job description. “When I took the oath, I swore to protect domestic and nondomestic,” he said. “And that means protecting the dreams of a child.”
Newly minted honorary soldier Xzayvier Burchard-mease, seated in front of the flag, with Army Spc. Larry Harris at his left