Sixteen-year-old Austin wished to meet the remaining Pearl Harbor survivors at the 71st Anniversary Ceremonies.
Austin’s mom, Kellee, was not at all surprised at his choice. His interest in history started with a love of airplanes and evolved into a fascination with war times. In hopes of meeting some veterans and talking with them about their experiences, Austin even started volunteering at the VA Hospital in Des Moines.
Phyllis Tinker, Austin’s wish granter, arrived at his house a week before the trip to go over the itinerary with him, and that’s when Austin really started to get excited about his wish – it was really happening.
While at the ceremonies, they had the honor of standing directly behind six survivors and several other World War II veterans were in attendance. “It’s hard to describe the feeling of being in that place with them, where their lives changed forever,” said Austin.
After the ceremony, Austin was able to get some time with a few survivors and covered topics from trends of their time to patriotism during wartimes. Austin knew the opportunity to talk to these men was rare and something he would remember forever.
One of the most emotional parts of the trip for his mom happened on the USS Arizona. The family was invited to a private boat tour of the harbor with the survivors. A photo was taken on the USS Arizona of the survivors and one of the officers asked Austin to be in the picture, too. He was reluctant, but the officer said, “Today this is about you, too”. So Austin, a survivor in his own right, joined in the photo with the survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack.
Austin’s mom Kellee said, “I see the value in having the organization and making wishes come true. This is something I hadn’t thought about before but now see the need for it. The wish was truly a celebration for us.”