Dying SC veteran travels to see son become a Marine

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PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- A South Carolina veteran’s wish was fulfilled when he attended his son’s military graduation after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. 

Charles Burns’ wish was to see his son, Ryan, graduate from boot camp in the Marine Corps.  The 65-year-old, a Marine himself, has recently suffered from a series of strokes, diabetes, and a worsening heart condition. 

Despite Charles’ illnesses, he and his wife on Friday endured a trip from Massachusetts to South Carolina to watch his son’s graduation amid a heat wave that swept across the southeast. 

“I've done this trip a million times in my mind,” Charles said. 

Charles joined the Navy in 1965 after attending high school and served a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam.  His father served in the Army during World War II. 

“Every child -- whether it’s a boy or a girl -- when they say they want to be a Marine, or want to be something other than just a civilian -- that means a lot to me,” Charles said. 

Ryan Burns said he doesn’t know what keeps his father going. 

“Me and my dad had a bet.  When I came here to Parris Island, it was: ‘I'll finish boot camp as long as you make it my graduation.’ So we both had ‘Mission accomplished,’” Ryan said.  “We're here today... So I couldn't ask for anything more.”

In the video above, CNN’s Sarah Hoye shows more of the emotional ceremony.   

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