by Staff Sgt. Terri Barriere
15th Wing Public Affairs
2/25/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Disneyland
isn't the only place dreams come true. Members of the 15th Wing
recently partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation here to help make
sure one child's ultimate dream became a reality.
When 11 year-old Carl Hess was chosen by the MAW Foundation to have his
wish granted, he let his passion for history and desire to have a
once-in-a-lifetime experience drive his request: he wished to become a
downed World War II pilot.
"There's a lot to learn about WWII and I wanted to do something unique
that no one had ever chosen," he said of his distinctive wish.
Carl, whose wish was granted after he was diagnosed and entered into
treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia in June 2011, was accompanied
to Hawaii by his mother, father and sister for the adventure.
"When he first made the wish, my first thought was, 'how are they going to pull that off,'" said his mother, Heidi Sullivan.
James Sullivan, Carl's dad, wondered if the wish fulfillment would
resemble a Survivor episode or if Carl would simply be "dropped in the
Carl was greeted at the airport by a host of U.S. Marines and members of
the Make-A-Wish team. He was then convoyed in an original World War II
jeep from the Honolulu International Airport to the USS MISSOURI, his
home for the night. On the next day, his wish was granted. While on an
air tour of the bombing route of Pearl Harbor, his plane conducted a
simulated emergency landing forcing Carl and his team to have to "evade"
and "survive" until help arrived the next morning. It was Carl's dream
Also as part of Carl's wish, he donned a custom-made period uniform,
received Air Force survival training and took a VIP tour of Pearl
"On a scale of one to 10, I'd say this was a 10," said Carl. "I can't
wait to tell my friends that I flew a plane ... and they'll never be as
cool as I am."
Carl was undecided on whether the best part of the experience was flying
the plane or convoying to the USS MISSOURI; but for his parents, the
effort put into fulfilling Carl's wish left them overly impressed.
"One thing just kept topping another, it was amazing ... outrageous,"
James said. "Just the walk through the airport, the ride in a real World
War II vehicle and getting to stay on the Missouri ... I'm amazed at
all the different pieces and how well thought-out they were. The passion
and love everyone had for what they were doing was pretty awesome."
In addition to unforgettable memories, Heidi said Carl was excited about
the keepsakes he was given to memorialize the occasion.
"They gave him quite a few things to take home with him and he's looking
forward to sharing that with a lot of people," she said. "He's got
quite a few people waiting for the reports [of his trip] on the other
side. This will go on for quite some time."
Heidi said besides getting through the first year of Carl's expected
three years of chemotherapy treatments, seeing the joy on his face was
the best part for her.
"Carl says he's fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia, he doesn't say he
has ALL, he says he's fighting it," she said. "The day he found out he
was diagnosed he said he knew that he was already healed and he has God
in his heart and even though he knew he'd have to get through treatment,
he'd be okay. So it was nice for us to have this vacation and be able
to realize, alongside of him, that he's going to be okay."
After recovering from his wish experience over the weekend, Carl and his
family were treated to a survivor tour of the USS ARIZONA, a tour of
the Pacific Aviation Museum and a Hickam Air Force Base tour. The
overall experience left a positive impression on Carl, who said he looks
forward to joining the Air Force.