Ellsworth hosts 9/11 Make-A-Wish reveal for area teen

  • Published
  • By Steven J. Merrill
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Raiders from Ellsworth Air Force Base teamed up with Make-A-Wish South Dakota Feb. 26 to notify a local 17-year-old that his dream to visit the Sept. 11 memorial in New York has become a reality.

Justin Mohler, a teenager who has struggled with chronic kidney failure and received a transplant in November 2018, was notified his wish had been granted during a special event inside the base’s Pride Hangar in front of nearly 100 cheering Airmen.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Justin, who shares his birthday with the Air Force. “I’ve always admired the police, firefighters and military for all they do to protect our country. Talking with them today and seeing what they do has been great. I still can’t believe I will be visiting the 9/11 memorial.”

Justin, his mother, sister and Make-A-Wish staff had the opportunity to see several parts of the base and interact with Airmen throughout the day. They began at the 28th Security Forces Squadron, where they learned about the squadron’s mission of providing integrated defense and combat capability to the base and the Air Force. They were shown a full weapons display, military working dog demonstration, and Justin had the opportunity to fire an M-240B light machine gun at the base firing range. Rounding out this segment of the tour, Justin was named an honorary defender.

“I enjoyed showing him who we are and what we do,” said Senior Airman Kolja Thielmann, a 28th SFS response force leader. “He was excited to learn about our job and the tools of our trade. He’s a great kid – very patriotic.”

The group then visited the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire and Emergency Services facility to tour the fire station and see a wide variety of displays provided by the 28th CES Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Emergency Management flights, and the 28th Medical Operations Squadron. The tour concluded fittingly at the 9/11 memorial inside the fire station where Justin was presented with a personalized fire ax, helmet and was made an honorary firefighter.

“It was a great way to show him how we all work together, especially during disasters like 9/11,” said Staff Sgt. Chase Escalante, a 28th CES EOD technician. “When bad things happen, we work with and rely on several other agencies. We can’t do our job without them. Being able to show that to him and his family was a great experience.”

After touring a B-1B Lancer display and talking with two aviators about the aircraft and its capabilities, the group arrived at the Pride Hangar for the reveal.

“It is truly an honor to be part of this great experience,” said Lt. Col. George Nichols, the 28th Mission Support Group deputy commander. “It was thrilling to showcase the base, our amazing Airmen and the vital mission being accomplished around-the-clock here for Justin and his family. He has persevered through so much at such an early age and overcome one of the hardest challenges that an individual can face. He’s the true hero in our book.”

Justin and his family are planning to travel to New York City in June.