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Dozens of uniformed soldiers and cops attend funeral of 5-year-old who wanted to be ‘Army Man’

A small boy waves an American flag as 1st Infantry Division Soldiers march by during the Sundown Salute Parade in Junction City, Kan., July 4. Sundown Salute is the largest free Independence Day celebration in the state of Kansas. (U.S. Army photo by Mollie Miller, 1st Inf. Div. Public Affairs/Released)

He was too young for an official military burial, but he certainly got a military sendoff.

It was a farewell worthy of the “Army Man” that River “Oakley” Nimmo wanted to be when he grew up – though this truest of warriors didn’t get the chance.

Oakley, as he was known to many, died of neuroblastoma at age 5 last Thursday after fighting the rare cancer for more than half of his short life.

His family invited military members to his funeral, and on Tuesday they complied, with dozens of police officers and soldiers, all in uniform, showing up to honor the boy at Cullendale First Baptist Church in Camden, reported CNN. The Arkansas National Guard posthumously promoted Oakley to “colonel.”

“The Arkansas National Guard has promoted ‘Army Man’ River Oakley Nimmo to the rank of Honorary Colonel, with an effective date of June 20, 2019, in honor of his life and passion for the United States military,” said the guard in a statement on Facebook Tuesday. “The order promoting River assigned him to the Joint Force Headquarters, Camp Joseph T. Robinson, North Little Rock, Ark., with a duty title of ARMY MAN.”

The guard presented Oakley’s family with a certificate lauding the “patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities of River Oakley Nimmo” and appointing him as an Honorary Colonel in the National Guard of Arkansas and of the United States. It was signed by Maj. Gen. Mark H. Berry, the Adjutant General of the State of Arkansas, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Arkansas National Guard.

The family had announced his death last week in a heartrending Facebook post on the page devoted to Oakley’s three-year battle with the devastating disease.

“Tonight around 5pm, our sweet boy, River Oakley Nimmo, went to Heaven in my arms,” his mother, Shelby Nimmo, wrote last Thursday. “We are absolutely broken. He FOUGHT absolutely 110% until the end.”

The family said they planned “to give Oakley a full military service in honor of his wish to become an ‘Army Man’ one day,” the post read. “We ask that any active military members and/or veterans to please attend the funeral in their uniforms.”

Diagnosed at age 2, Oakley seemed to beat the disease in 2017. The cancer appeared to be vanquished in June 2017 but came back a month later, according to the military news website Task and Purpose. He had just turned 5 on May 6, according to his obituary, which described a “sweet, brave boy” who was known for being “feisty, courageous, smart and full of life.”

Between hospital stays, his parents said, Oakley drove power wheels, shot toy guns and talked about being an “Army Man” someday.

“Oakley spent most of this life fighting to live, and did it with a smile on his face,” his family said.

“On behalf of the men and women of the Arkansas National Guard, rest in peace little buddy,” the National Guard said. “To River’s family, you’re in our thoughts and prayers.”


© 2019 New York Daily News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.