For many children, a wish is more than an opportunity to leave their problems behind and step into a world full of joy, laughter and the comfort of family; it is a chance to reach for the stars and pursue a dream they never thought possible.
From the time 13-year-old Dylan was born, his family knew that his heart condition would limit him physically. But as he grew, this ambitious teen pushed the boundaries of his condition, and decided that he wouldn’t let it define him. His one true wish? To be a soldier in the U.S. Army.
Despite a deep passion for serving his country, Dylan’s condition prevents him from officially enlisting in the U.S. Army, so he decided to use his wish to bring that dream to life.
After a long flight from his home in Missouri, Dylan and his family arrived at the Honolulu Airport where they were greeted at their gate by a full military assembly. As is traditional in Hawaii, he was given a lei and smiled brightly as men and women in uniform welcomed him with signs and cheers of excitement. And with his new uniform in hand, Dylan’s wish had officially begun. He hopped into a humvee and quickly changed into his new threads at the hotel.
Dylan was sworn in at his enlistment ceremony at Fort DeRussy. He was about to step into the boots of a real military soldier in training.
The very next day, Dylan was invited to go on the prestigious Admiral’s Barge Tour (a tour usually reserved exclusively for service members). Learning about the history of the USS Utah, USS Oklahoma and USS Arizona memorials, instilled in Dylan a deep appreciation for those who gave their lives for their country. Before leaving the historic site, Dylan was promoted to lieutenant on the Mighty Mo (USS Missouri), an unexpected honor for a 13-year-old boy.
After laying the groundwork, Dylan’s unit took him on a wild ride complete with medical training, jungle and lighting training, a reconnaissance mission in a Blackhawk, obstacle courses, promotion ceremonies and time spent just hanging out with the guys.
Now a Major, it had come time for Dylan to “turn over command” to his successor. The change of command ceremony was followed by a permanent change of duty celebration during which Dylan was presented with a traditional canister, marking the start of his retirement. Perhaps the most memorable part of Dylan’s wish were the bonds that he built with his fellow soldiers.
"One of the things that resonated throughout this experience was an uplifted spirit for everyone involved," said Amy Sterry, COO of Make-A-Wish Hawaii. "Dylan was excited to have the camaraderie and support of his unit, and his unit was equally as happy to have met Dylan and have had the opportunity to participate in his wish."