If you've read this blog for the past couple of years you may remember Evan Pertile. Evan was diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer just after Thanksgiving in 2008. Depending on how you look at it that was three LONG or three short years ago. I'm sure his parents would say it was three LONG years ago. But the good news is that Evan is in remission and doing well thanks to the amazing care he received at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, TN.
Evan's mother announced on their caringbridge site that Evan has been selected as on the U S Army's 2011 Faces of Strength. Evan is the only civilian to ever be selected for this honor.
From The United States Army Faces of Strength:
At the age of eight, Evan Pertile has achieved more than most men. He retains the honorary rank of colonel in the U.S. Army, has received multiple medals and survived a vicious battle. In 2008, Evan was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. Shortly after his diagnosis, Evan was brought to St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, for operations and radiation therapy. While treatment was tough, Evan was even tougher.
After spending many sleepless nights by Evan’s side at St. Jude’s, his mother, Rachel, was heading home to Columbia, South Carolina, when she met someone who would change the Pertiles’ lives. Brenda Bowen worked at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, and when she learned of Evan’s affinity for “Army guys,” she knew she could help. Brenda used her network to rally support for Evan. A message board that Rachel had set up began to flood with words of encouragement from the Soldiers he admired so much.
That support came just in time. Evan had lost his appetite as a result of his rigorous chemotherapy treatment when he started receiving messages of support from all over the world. One after another, Soldiers told Evan that he had to eat to be Army Strong. These words of encouragement sparked an incredible willpower in Evan to eat again, allowing doctors to remove his feeding tube. Since then, Evan has proudly touted that he is Army Strong, someone who “can fight anything and win,” and he is now two years in remission.
Over the past three years, Evan has befriended many of the Soldiers who encouraged him throughout his recovery. By taking time to contact Evan, the Soldiers helped save a life off the battlefield. And while Evan’s story began as one of Soldiers inspiring a young boy, it has turned into a source of inspiration for other Soldiers. Now, instead of words of encouragement, Evan receives messages of thanks.
“The whole time Evan was a force within himself of strength, courage and perseverance,” says Rachel. But she recalls that Soldiers told her “as much as we help Evan, Evan helps us. Evan shows us what we fight for and what we believe in, and he gives meaning to what we do.”
Evan faced much adversity in his bout with brain cancer, but his drive to be Army Strong helped him win the battle. Evan defines strength as “courage” and the will to “keep fighting.” The Soldiers who know him define strength as “Evan Pertile.”
Matt Burden of Blackfive first introduced us to Evan in early May 2009.
Later that month SSG Ryan Pitts and I visited Evan at the Target House near St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
The night after SSG Pitts and I visited with Evan and his mother he became critically ill. It was touch and go as to whether he would make it or not. But he did. Today he is thriving and enjoying being an 8 year old boy. God answered so many prayers. And, thanks to so many Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen around the world (literally), Evan drew strength to fight his toughest battles.
It seems that now Evan is learning that he has given much back.
In July 2009 Jim Hanson aka Uncle Jimbo and I visited Evan.
Evan has been an inspiration to so many. He is an incredible young man. Now that he is in remission he is swimming, playing soccer, doing well in school, playing with his older brothers and his new baby sister and conitnuing to raise money for St Jude so that other children can be treated for devastating childhood cancers. It has been such a privilege getting to know Evan and his family.
Evan Pertile Follow Up posted on Blackfive July 2009 (excellent video)
Evan Pertile Update posted on Blackfive Sept 2009
Evan Pertile return to duty with a great video Uncle Jimbo filmed the day before Evan left for home.