Tom was a unique 13-year-old boy and not just because he was living with muscular dystrophy. He was a history buff who loved to read stories of the “greatest war”, World War II, where he could review honor and bravery in action.
That was how he determined his one true wish. He wished to see the sites of World War II battles in Normandy, France so he could honor the men and women who fought and died there.
“Most people take it for granted how big the impact soldiers really have on our freedom,” said Tom. As someone who was going to soon be fighting to do simple things that other people take for granted due to his diagnosis, Tom felt a need to see for himself the spots where ordinary people did extraordinary things.
The family was flown to France and soon found themselves in Bayeux, a medieval town in Normandy. In Bayeaux, Tom and his family had personal guides to the museums, beaches and German outposts around the city. He was taken in a WWII jeep through the beach hedgerows and even walked in the footsteps of the troops. His tours extended to Arromanche, a village in Normandy famous for housing bunkers of ammunition, and to nearby Utah and Omaha beaches, where the Americans first landed.
“The area was beautiful and mysteriously showed no signs of war,” said Tom. “It’s hard to imagine these big battles happened in such a beautiful place.”
Even without signs of war, the locations were revered, Tom said.
“All the major sites had some sort of memorial to commemorate the lost,” says Tom. “It really means a lot to the towns and the people who live there.”
Tom and his family ended his wish trip in Paris but, he soon found out that even returning to Arizona did not stop people from wanting to hear his story. At the opening of the Arizona legislature just a few months after he returned from his wish trip, he was able to talk with a WWII veteran who shared his personal pictures of the war.
“I will always cherish the time I had with [the veteran] and on my wish,” said Tom. “Both continue to impact how I live my life. No matter what obstacles you have to overcome, don’t stop enjoying what you want to do in life. If this is possible, I'm sure there are a lot of other things that can come true for you. I felt overwhelmed and very happy that I got to experience something like this.”
Tom continues to share his wish story with kids who are in similar circumstances. He believes his wish has inspired other kids, giving them the idea that they can learn new things in an interesting way.
“No matter how frustrating something can be, there's a way to approach it so you can overcome it,” says Tom.