MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina -- Imagine a man who is tough and rugged. He looks intimidating from afar, and he’s different once you get close and he speaks to you. You see him as one who keeps his emotions to himself, always making you wonder what might actually be going on inside. But this day, it’s different. He is choked up when he speaks. You finally get a glimpse.
For 1st Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, this is a rare sight. For them, family is everything and now it has taken a huge toll.
Staff Sergeant Joshua Whatley, first platoon’s platoon sergeant, has been dealing with one of the toughest challenges he’s ever faced. After five deployments, three of them which were to combat zones, that’s a lot to say. While he has been out on the battlefield, facing the enemy, his daughter has been facing an enemy of her own: Cancer.
“We were all hit in the chest when we heard about what was going on,” said 1st Lt. David Gaffney, the platoon commander.
For 1st Platoon, everyone wanted to pitch in and help in any way they could.
Pfc. Corey Kush, a rifleman with the platoon, says the Marines wanted to come together and make an effort to show Whatley that they were behind him 100 percent of the way.
“The platoon came to me and said that they wanted to shave their heads for Katie,” said Gaffney.
Cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy lose most of their hair due to the radiation in the treatment.
“I could just imagine how precious hair could be to a six-year-old girl,” said Kush. “We just wanted to show that we could sacrifice ours too in hopes that she might feel a little better.”
Whatley says that he informed Katie of what the platoon had done in support and says that she had a grin on her face knowing a whole platoon of Marines had done that for her.
Along with shaving their heads, the Marines raised money that would later go towards toys for Katie and the Whatley family.
“Hospitals are never an easy place to be,” said Cpl. Justin Worrell, a rifleman with the platoon. “We thought toys for Katie would help her time there be a little easier.”
The platoon stresses that family plays a big part among them.
“We deploy a lot as infantrymen so we know the stressors of leaving them behind for six or more months at a time,” said Gaffney. “Family is a necessity among us.”
Worrell says he has no doubt the platoon would rally at the drop of a hat for any of their Marines.
First platoon plans to continue shaving their heads weekly to show continued support and encouragement for Katie and the rest of the Whatley family. The family has also established a Facebook page called Courage for Katie along with a GoFundMe account.