Young cancer patient resilient spirit continues to inspire

Boy meets retired Army officer for first time

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio boy met the retired Army officer who has helped him with his cancer battle for two years.

A month after Damon Billeck, 12, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma bone cancer in January 2014, his battle got the attention of Pharrell Williams who sent him a video message of encouragement.

Pharrell was not the only one who took notice. Retired Army Lt. Col. Jerry Touchet learned about Damon through Damon’s aunt, who worked with Touchet. He soon donated to a GoFundMe account for Damon, keeping tabs with his progress. In late 2014, Damon posted on social media that all he wanted for Christmas was a Christmas card.

“I got all the guys that worked for me and we all signed a Christmas card and put it together,” said Touchet, who was stationed in Afghanistan at the time with the Army Reserves.

Touchet would occasionally send other gifts from Camp Moorehead and even signed up to run a 50K race in Damon’s honor, calling him an amazing inspiration.

“Every time I see him he's got a smile on his face and doing all these other things for cancer kids,” said Touchet.

“The people inspired are the ones that really care and Jerry was running a 30-mile race just for me,” said Damon. “Doing a race and not giving up even when he wanted to is pretty cool and he was thinking about me the whole time.”

On Friday afternoon, after more than two years of staying connected through the internet and with the occasional gift, the two finally met face to face in San Antonio.

“I was really surprised,” said Touchet. “I was almost knocked on the floor when I turned to the right there and saw Damon. That's when I lost it.”

The two stood and talked for nearly 20 minutes before taking a break. A meeting they hope to repeat often. Touchet makes it to San Antonio for about one month every year. Damon will end chemotherapy treatment in Houston next month.