Philadelphia rugby star Nasair Boston-Epps was denied entry to the Army for an old stray bullet wound. The former secretary of the army read an Inquirer column about him and got him approved. On Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, Boston-Epps meets with his recruiter Quoya Dubose at the recruiters office in North Philadelphia. (The Philadelphia Inquirer/Steven M. Falk via Tribune News Service)

The man on the phone told Quiana Boston that he had run the Army for President Obama. And that he'd like to try to help her son achieve his dream.

Boston was hopeful, but cautious. Her son, Nasair Boston-Epps, had already lost so much. A star player on his rugby team in North Philadelphia, the Nomads, and a standout cadet at the Philadelphia Military Academy, Nasair was shot last year on his way to his after-school job at McDonald's. It was a stray bullet, and it nearly killed him.

It nearly killed his dream, too: of becoming a physical therapist in the Army, following his grandfather and great-great-grandfather, Vietnam and World War II vets, and his father, a Navy veteran of the Gulf War. But, after a grueling fight to get his strength back and return to the rugby pitch, the gregarious kid built like a tank was rejected when he tried to join the Army.

They said the wounds from the bullet were disqualifying — a snap decision that surprised his doctors, teachers, and recruiters, who all knew that Nasair had recovered fully.

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