OSWEGO, NY – The way things are going, Julian Ross probably should start thinking about starting a new bucket list.
On Tuesday afternoon, members of Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain Division visited the second grader and made him an honorary sergeant and presented him with a variety of military equipment, including a uniform, a 10th Mountain Division banner and dog tags.
He also received a military camo backpack (that appeared to weigh more than Julian) stuffed full of more 10th Mountain Division memorabilia.
For his trips to the hospital he was presented with a 10th Mountain Division hoodie to keep him warm.
“It’s got sergeant stripes on there, so you know it’s yours,” Col. Patrick N. Kaune told him.
Senator Patty Ritchie arranged the visit after learning of seven-year-old Julian’s fascination with all-things military.
Julian was wearing his West Point uniform. He recalled shooting off a big gun during his visit to the academy.
It was the cannon they use to shoot T-Shirts into the crowds at events like football games, his mother explained.
“It was loud!” Julian exclaimed.
Additionally, the senator gave Julian and his brother, Brayden, Christmas presents.
Julian has been battling neuroblastoma for more than a year. He was diagnosed Aug. 4, 2011.
The cancer started in Julian’s adrenal gland and has spread throughout his body. He has had multiple surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, bone marrow aspirations, scans, transfusions and blood draws.
“I heard that you like the military,” Sen. Ritchie said to Julian. “You’re a really brave guy and we wanted to come and show you how much we care.”
“We heard what a tough little kid you were and you’re fighting a lot of the ‘bad army’ and we appreciate your fight and we want to recognize your bravery,” said Lt. Col. Kaune.
Command Sgt. Major Mark Oldroyd, the 10th Mountain Division’s senior NCO, read the proclamation officially designating Julian as Sgt. Julian.
The proclamation was presented to Sgt. Julian Ross “for outstanding bravery when faced with challenges. Your spirit is an inspiration to all and reflects the courage of you and your family. It is hereby declared that the North Country community and the 10th Mountain Division Light Infantry are proud of you.”
“I can’t put into words how thankful I am for the generosity of our 10th Mountain Division soldiers who took the time to make the trip to Oswego, as well as Fort Drum’s new Commanding General, Major General Stephen Townsend and his staff for helping to coordinate the visit to Julian’s home,” added Senator Ritchie.
“Even though we live so close to Fort Drum, many people in Central and Northern New York don’t realize the huge role 10th Mountain Division soldiers play in our everyday lives. It’s not just protecting our freedom; it’s doing things like taking time to make people who are struggling, like Julian, feel special,” she added.
The youngster’s bucket list started with about a dozen items. Thanks to the amazing generosity of friends, family and complete strangers, the list is getting very short.
A grassroots effort is under way to construct an addition on the family’s home so Julian can have an upstairs bedroom; Timebuyer donated a vehicle the family can now use on its many trips to CHOP (Children’s Hospital Of Philadelphia) for Julian’s cancer fighting treatments; the Grucci family purchased a special bred of cat the youngster wanted and a volunteer from Long Island drove the feline gift to the family’s home.
In the center of the family’s living room stands a large Christmas tree. It was a gift from his elementary school.
“They delivered it on a truck,” his mother, Kristi, told Oswego County today. “It tipped over twice. All his classmates and the school’s staff and faculty made the decorations.”
A smaller tree sits near by. It was a gift from an elementary school in Constantia. The students there decorated it and wrote on their decorations the word they thought best described Julian.
“Then, they wrote little essays explaining why they chose that word,” Kristi said. “They are very cute. One described Julian as a ‘survivor’ and wrote that their grandfather was a survivor, too. ‘He got shot in the leg.’ Another youngster used the word ‘Dreamer’ and then went off on a tangent about how he likes to ride horses and the horse’s name is Dreamer.”
His mother said they were optimistic about Julian’s future.
“We’re hopeful,” she said. “We went from terminal cancer four months ago to no evidence of disease today.”
Julian said he wanted to thank “The Lady” for the gifts and bringing the soldiers to visit.
“It’s ‘Senator,’” his mother quietly reminded him.
“We come from a military family. My dad was in the Army and my brother served two tours in Iraq,” Kristi said.
“This means the world to him. It really lifts his spirits. He has always wanted to be in the military. It’s his personal goal,” Kristi continued. “I want to say thank you to everybody for all the support that we’ve received. We’ve received numerous Christmas cards, a hundred Christmas cards.”
“We’re all proud of you, Julian. And we are all pulling for you to get better,” the senator told Julian. “Keep us posted and let us know how you’re doing. Thanks, buddy. It’s so important, especially during the holidays, to remember people like Julian, and let them know we care.”
Julian flashed a smile and gave everyone the thumbs up sign.