Matthew, 12, has always been intrigued by the US Navy and Marine Corps.
He grew up watching the film Pearl Harbor with his family, learning all about the World War II era and hoping to experience the same sense of valor and fearlessness of American troops. However, because of his cystic fibrosis, Matthew would never be able to pursue a career in the armed forces. He wished to visit Pearl Harbor to see the historical site firsthand.
Even 77 years later the events at Pearl Harbor continue to shape our world in more ways than most people realize: it changed foreign policy and what it means to serve in the armed forces. Remarkably, this is not lost on the pre-teen history buff. To him, these events and the brave men who responded to them, are as important as ever.
In traveling to Hawaii, Matthew was able to embrace his wonder for military history. His experience in Oahu provided him a special look at the Pearl Harbor site.
“He was treated wonderfully and felt so special,” says his father, Chad. “He got to go places that were closed off to the public. He was treated like a king.”
Matthew and his family went aboard the USS Missouri, the last battleship commissioned by the Navy during the war and the site of Japan’s surrender in 1945. This moment stands out to the family as one of the most surreal experiences of their visit.
For Matthew, visiting Pearl Harbor involved bearing witness to more than just historical sites. Matthew heard personal accounts from locals, walked the same surfaces as the men he has long admired and saw the doodles and decorations of people who shaped history.
Matthew’s wish trip brought together his whole family, from deep-sea fishing excursions on the beautiful Hawaiian coast to shark cave diving and making pearl necklaces. He holds on to his handmade necklace today, a memento of a dream fulfilled.
His parents were glad that Matthew, who is always kind-hearted and generous, had the opportunity to experience Hawaii and Pearl Harbor. With constant treatments and limitations, no one deserved this joy more.
“He has the heart of a lion,” says his dad.