ALBANY, Ga. -- Thanks to the marvels of technology, an Albany-born Army major deployed in Kuwait was part of an effort Wednesday to cheer up a 10-year-old Baltimore boy who has a terminal illness.
Maj. Norland James, 3rd Army, Central Command, was able to use Skype equipment to have a face-to-face conversation with young Khalil Quarles. Khalil has terminal cancer and spends much of his time at the Gilchrest Hospice Center in Baltimore.
"I have a friend who is a nurse at Gilchrest," James said. "She told me about Khalil and how much he loved the idea of being in the Army."
It was decided to set up a conversation between James and Khalil at the boy's home using Skype technology, which allows two or more participants to talk and see each other on computer monitors. James was all for that, he said, but he wanted to do more. He involved some servicemen from Ft. Meade, near the hospice, and arranged a big surprise for Khalil.
After talking for 10 or 15 minutes, the youngster was encouraged to step outside his house. Waiting there were at least 25 military and civilian personnel. Khalil, already dressed in military fatigues, was given a certificate of appreciation for his support of the military. In addition, there was a special induction ceremony, with a two-star general from the 200 MP command, making Khalil an honorary Army enlistee.
During the ceremony and the later Humvee ride, James could no longer speak with Khalil, but a video camera made it possible for him to see the child's joyful face and to hear his voice, James said.
"When he saw those guys out there, his face just really lit up," James said, "It was like, 'Wow!' I love doing things like that."
James said he was born and raised in Albany. He joined the army in 1999 and still has family in Albany, where he says he plans to return one day.