Military News

Monday, February 25, 2013

15th Wing partners with Make- A-Wish Foundation

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 woods."

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 come true.

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 Harbor.

"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.

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