Bring up WWII in a conversation and Carl will have a lot to say. From his fascination with fighter pilots to strategizing secret missions, he is truly an adventurer at heart.
Although Carl has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a type of blood cancer, he doesn’t let his sickness affect his passion for exploring. Carl’s natural curiosity and adventurous character led him to ask for a very unique wish. His wished to be a WWII fighter pilot who crash landed and survived on a deserted island.
Carl commented on his wish saying, “There’s a lot to learn about WWII and I wanted something unique that nobody has ever done before.” He was right; this was a very unique wish indeed.
In February of 2013, eleven year old Carl Hess was flown from his home in Washington to Hawaii. Carl quickly found that the Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard were all taking part in making his wish come true, which was the first time this had ever happened for a wish. Only a wish can bring together all branches of the armed forces with such ease!
Carl was escorted via a caravan of WWII vehicles to the USS Missouri Battleship Memorial to become an official member of the Army Air Corps. There, Carl was given his uniform and commissioned as a First Class Lieutenant, allowing him to realize his dream of becoming a real soldier! After becoming familiar with his fellow soldiers and fitted in his uniform, Carl spent the night on the USS Missouri and then he was ready to commence his secret mission.
The quest started out on a plane ride so Carl could get a bird’s-eye view of Oahu. Lieutenant Carl was forced to make an “emergency landing” and on the ground was attacked by enemy forces who took him into captivity. Luckily, his allies were standing by, and rescued Carl shortly after. Carl’s day was filled with search and rescue missions on the island of Oahu. He spent the full day lost in history, living out all his heroic dreams with his dad and countless military professionals.
“There are so many more people involved than I thought,” Carl said. “It’s really good to know that everyone wanted to help me with my dream.”
Ending the day by catching fish and cooking it over an open fire with his fellow soldiers, that’s where Carl experienced what it may have been like to be a fighter pilot during WWII. Carl’s Dad said “It’s cool to see, I’m excited. It’s nice to see him smile.” Carl was truly happy on the day his wish was fulfilled. After all, that was the day he became a hero!
Through his wish, Carl was able to let his imagination come to life. The joy he experienced on his wish day allowed him to capture his vision and escape from his illness, not through fantasy but through reality. It’s easy to forget that Carl really is a fighter. He spent three years battling Leukemia, and this wish is part of his fight.
Today, Carl still is still undergoing chemotherapy treatments. But he also has an army of supporters who salute his bravery, optimism and incredible strength. Like the veterans of WWII he knows so much about, all of us honor Carl as the hero he is.
Special thanks: U.S. Marines, Alaska Airlines, Platinum Limousines, Gentry Productions, Jon Whittington, Leis of Hawaii, Skydive of Hawaii, Avis, Sheraton Waikiki, Dahlia Lounge, Joint Fort Lewis-McCord, Rebecca J. Moat Photography, USS Missouri