© Provided by TIME Inc. An 8-year-old California boy with a rare disease died Sunday – just one day after becoming an honorary U.S. Marine.

Wyatt Gillette had Aicardi-Goutieres Syndrome Type 1, a disease that causes kidney failure and eventually leads to death.

His father, 29-year-old Marine drill instructor Jeremiah Gillette, reached out to fellow Marines asking for prayers when his son moved into hospice care.

He and Wyatt’s mother, Felishia Gillette, were stunned by the response.

“I just started crying,” Felishia said. “So many people and strangers took an interest.”

One of those strangers was Marine Anthony North, who created a petition on Change.org to have Wyatt become an honorary Marine.

“I truly feel that Wyatt has faced more hardship than any Marine has gone through, and for that should be given the title,” North wrote on the website.

Within days, the online petition gained thousands of names, and the U.S. Marine Corps granted the impassioned request.

Wyatt’s proud parents watched as their son was honored in a moving ceremony at Camp Pendleton on Saturday.

“He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever met,” Jeremiah told ABC7. “He’s the toughest person I’ve ever met.”

Tragically, the young boy passed away the very next day.

Jeremiah said his son was peaceful and pain free, according to ABC7.

“Thank you all so much for letting Wyatt into your hearts, and allowing him to make you smile, it was his favorite thing to do,” Jeremiah wrote.