Well today we granted a wish for Mark, who declared a wish to have his own Army jeep sometime ago. When Mark first declared his wish, his mom tells us the rest of the family was really hoping for a nice vacation. But Mark was adamant that he declare a wish for his own Army jeep.
"There goes our chance for our vacation!" Mom joked.
Some things are just meant to be. In this case, it was meant to be that Mark get his very own Army jeep. After spending nearly 3 months in the hospital, Mark's mom says she can understand that he didn't want to leave the hospital and go on vacation... he just wanted to go home. And while Mark has an intestine disorder that can make for lots of visits to the doctor's office, he doesn't let that keep him from doing what he loves most – pretending to play “Army”. His father and grandfather have both served for the Army and as a result, Mark loves to be a pretend soldier himself. In fact, his favorite color is Army green.
So after finding a 1944 Willys jeep that was for sale our volunteer Wish Granters met Ray Meldrum, who became instrumental in restoring this jeep. He and a group of several dozen community members went to work restoring history. All parts that could possibly injure someone were removed. All of the rust has been cut away and new steel panels have been welded into place. The jeep was completely sandblasted, covered with body putty and prime coated. It was then finish painted in a space of two weeks.
The engine, transmission and any other usable parts that could be used on a future project were removed. Those who completed the transformation will preserve history by holding on to those parts for another restoration project.
The headlights and lights in the dashboard are functional, thus allowing Mark to be able to play on his jeep even after the sun goes down. The steering also works. Finally, to top the jeep off, it has been outfitted with a dummy routing machine gun.
Interesting to know... over 600 man hours were put into restoring the jeep. The work was completed in less than one month. The jeep is a main attraction of a full-size playset that was also installed in Mark's backyard. In fact, when Mom saw it later she commented that it looked like a minature boot camp behind her home. Members from all branches of the military were instrumental in making Mark's wish come true - whether through helping restore the jeep or else making an appearance at today's presentation. Another interesting fact - WWII jeeps from the era this jeep was used had a hood number used to identify each vehicle; the hood number on Mark’s jeep is his birthday. Everyone who worked on the jeep, as well as the military members who were in attendance today, signed a well wish for Mark under the hood of the jeep.
This morning was a routine morning at Mark's house - his birthday is officially tomorrow so the family was off to celebrate at a local pancake house. While they were away a literal "Army" of volunteers closed in on the family home and began putting things into place.
As the family returned home Mark's wish granters escorted him to the backyard. As his jaw dropped he raised his hand and waved to the crowd.
After making his way over to the jeep an honor guard from Hill Air Force Base then presented the flag. The crowd listened as a cd played the national anthem. Mark was then made an honorary captain with the United States Army. To make it official he dropped to his hands and did push ups in front of a crowd of more than 100 neighbors, classmates and family members, as well as dozens of members of the military.
Several of those stopped to shake Mark's hand when the presentation was complete - and a few of them gave medals of honor for him to treasure forever.
There are some wishes that are really unique. But when it comes to encompassing the spirit of hope, strength, and joy - this wish might just be the wish that best explains what we stand for.
Special thanks to all of those who worked so hard to make Mark's wish come true. We are especially grateful to Raymond Meldrum, Addy Meldrum, Bill Harris, Chris Davis, Dave Krommenhoek, Glenn Embry, Mike Sanchez, Ryan Little and the Eric Shosted family for all of the time and hard work they have put into restoring this vehicle.
Finally - to Mark - Hooah Soldier! May you enjoy many endless days and nights on your real Army jeep.