For all of his young life, Alec Rubio has loved and wanted to be in the military.

But the 6-year-old had no idea he was about to become an honorary Marine ― a title he was bestowed Dec. 19 in Miramar, California, by his Marine uncle and Marine Wing Communication Squadron 38, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, according to the Corps.

Rubio’s uncle, Warrant Officer Brandon Cain, a utility and motor transport maintenance officer with MWCS-38, wanted to pull off the big surprise for his nephew, who has been diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD, a rare, genetic brain disease that most commonly occurs in boys. It carries a life expectancy of usually just a couple years after diagnosis, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“Alec, this coin means that you are forever a member of Marine Wing Communication Squadron 38,” said Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Koichi Takagi, as he presented Rubio with a challenge coin, according to the Corps. “You are the newest and bravest member of the unit and we are glad you are here. Welcome to the Marine Corps!”

It was only in June that Rubio’s mother started noticing something may be wrong with her son. A lazy eye eventually led to a change in his behavior, Tereza Quesada told the Marine Corps.

“There is no cure, but there are treatments to try and stop it,” she said.

Rubio’s late diagnosis in November makes it hard for the treatment to work, the family said ― and he already has lost most of his vision and has been struggling with his motor skills.

But that didn’t stop the 6-year-old from commanding a formation, and then ordering Marines to do pushups, sprints and jumping jacks when leading an exercise, according to the Corps.

“Once we were back inside the truck, he looked at me with a smile and said, ‘I’m a Marine now, Dad, I’m really a Marine!’” said Rubio’s father, Efrain. “I asked him, ‘You’re a Marine already? At 6-years-old?’ and he told me, ‘Yeah, I’m a Marine already, I told you!’”

“This brought hope and happiness to them,” Cain told the Marine Corps. “It shows how something as small as throwing a formation and getting the Marines together can mean to someone, especially someone who has looked up to us and idolized us for as long as Alec has.”

Andrea Scott is editor of Marine Corps Times. On Twitter: _andreascott