OFFICE OF MARINE CORPS COMMUNICATION ARLINGTON, Va. --
He has two dreams. The first is to be like his father, a retired Marine colonel, whom he adores. It only makes sense that his second dream is to become a Marine, the next in a family that has a blood stripe stretching back all the way to a great grandfather who fought in World War I.
Unfortunately, his second dream seemed unattainable due to a chronic illness preventing his future service. Little did he know his second dream would come true before entering middle school.
Seven-year-old Andrew Starr II received the title of “Honorary Marine” at his home in Springfield, Va., on June 30, at the hands of Maj. Gen. Frederick Padilla, director of operations for Plans, Policies and Operations, Headquarters Marine Corps.
“I have always wanted to be a Marine,” Andrew said.
At nine months old, Andrew was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type 1, a disorder that causes tumors and can leave nerve damage. Andrew has suffered with four brain tumors, one of which required him to undergo chemotherapy treatments.
“He has to learn differently than other children,” his parents, Andrew and Stacy Starr said. “But he has never looked at this negatively. Andrew believes he can do anything.”
“Even though he is going through this painful ordeal, he is not focused on himself,” Padilla said. “He is a gregarious young man who is very focused on others and the needs of others.”
Andrew’s attitude and selfless focus were two reasons Padilla, a long-time friend of Andrew’s father, endorsed an honorary Marine package that had been previously submitted for the young man.
“I was taken with the situation, and these folks don’t come any better,” Padilla said. “I wanted to do something to help with getting him recognized and trying to make one of his dreams come true.”
Receiving the honorary title of “Marine” isn’t easy, and the process by which it’s awarded is a lengthy one.
For Andrew, it took more than nine months.
“I’m just so happy,” Andrew said. “I’m a Marine like my dad.”
An honorary Marine nomination can only be submitted by commanding generals, commanding officers and officers-in-charge before being endorsed by a general officer and then officially designated by the commandant of the Marine Corps.
“Headquarters Marine Corps does not just give these honorary titles out,” Padilla said.
According to Marine Corps Order 5060.19B, the title of honorary Marine is not given solely as an expression of appreciation nor in recognition of official or contracted duties, but is awarded to recipients who must meet specific conditions.
Andrew is one of less than 100 people to have received the title since the inception of the title in 1992. He is the second to receive it in 2014.
“Even if they’re a young kid like Andrew Starr, honorary Marines contribute by just being an example of perseverance, having a positive attitude and outlook, how you carry yourself and the example you set for others,” Padilla said.
“As a mom, it makes me proud that Maj. Gen. Padilla and Col. Forrester worked to accomplish this task and fought for a child,” Stacy Starr said. “And for me the legacy continues on for our family.”
Andrew will continue to live a full life, hating vegetables and creating adventures with his favorite Star Wars characters while aspiring to be like his greatest hero − his dad.
Only now, he will do it as a Marine.