Aurora High School student Matthew Oswald, 15, got the surprise of his life Friday when the Make–A-Wish Foundation granted him his wish to visit Pearl Harbor, Hawaii – the infamous site of the 1941 attack that launched the U.S. and Japan into World War II.
"Just World War II in general has kind of always interested me," Matthew said. "I don't know exactly why but it just kind of has, and Pearl Harbor is just kind of how I got into it -- just seeing where it all started."
Matthew was diagnosed with T–cell lymphoma — a life–threatening form of blood cancer — last April.
"He had a football–sized tumor on his Thymus gland, which is under his ribcage," Matthew's father, Mike Oswald, said.
Matthew was nominated for a wish by his doctor, so his high school and the Make–A–Wish Foundation put together a special Pearl Harbor assembly at the school Friday morning just to surprise him.
"I had no idea, like at all," Matthew said. "I thought it was just going to be Pearl Harbor Day, that we were just going to kind of remember what happened and everything, then all of a sudden, people started showing up, then it kind of got fishy from there."
For volunteer wish–grantor Jaime Lundgren, these are the moments that make all those months of hard work worth it.
"To be able to give a family and an individual child joy and something to hope for, that makes everything worth it," she said. "It's always hard to hold back the tears because of what you're doing for them and helping them along the way in their life journey."
Matthew's father says the family couldn't have gotten through the difficult time without all the support they've gotten along the way.
"There were people in nine states across America — and who knows how many more — praying for Mathew," Mike Oswald said. "Our walk with God has gotten us through it, and we've seen him work an absolute miracle on Mathew, and it's just been an amazing journey."
So how does Matthew feel about having his biggest wish granted?
"I'm excited," he said. "I mean, how could you not be? You're going to Hawaii."
Matthew has been undergoing chemotherapy, and was recently found to be cancer–free. He and his family leave for Pearl Harbor next month.
A Nebraska family, who didn't want to be named, sponsored the entire trip.