The Magazine of the NJ National Guard
volume 32 number 1

Guardlife Index

UTES Soldiers Grant Wish
Photo and story by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Stephenson, NJDMAVA/PA
Click to Enlarge
Clockwise, Spc. Kenneth Harvey and Sergeants John Yaprem, Chris Walinski and Timothy Devoy help Timmy Pauxtis out of an M-1 Abrams tank.
When you wish upon a tank may not have the same ring as the Disney song about a star, but it rang true for one special New Jersey boy thanks in part to a special group of New Jersey Army National Guard Soldiers.

Working in conjunction with the Make A Wish Foundation, Col. Charles Harvey, Joint Force Headquarters-New Jersey, and the Soldiers who work at the Unit Training Equipment Site (UTES) at Fort Dix, were able to fulfill the dream of a lifetime for young Timmy Pauxtis. In addition to giving him a ride in an M1 Abrams Battle Tank, the Soldiers had several other special treats in store for Timmy, most of which they provided on their own.

"When we heard about it, everybody got pumped up, and it just snowballed - Let's do this for him, let's do that for him," said Sgt. Tim Devoy. "Guys that came back from Iraq were taking their medals and throwing them into the pot, because we really wanted to do something nice."

"I had a couple of medals at home collecting dust, so I brought them in for him," added Sgt. Dave Petruzziello. "It really was a group effort. Everybody was involved."

After donning a combat vehicle crewman's helmet, Timmy was lowered into the tank and off they went down the tank trails that surround Fort Dix. Forty-five minutes later the tank returned and a beaming Timmy was hoisted into the waiting arms of his mother, who had nothing but thanks for the Soldiers at UTES.

"How do I begin to say thank you to everyone for making Timmy's dream come true," Susan Pauxtis wrote on Timmy's website. "I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to Sergeant Ronald Ambrose and Colonel Harvey and everyone else involved in putting this special day together for Timmy."

And while Timmy may look up to the Soldiers as heroes, the Soldiers themselves have their own hero. "He's a trooper, he's a Soldier," said Devoy, noting that they were as determined as Timmy to make his wish come true. "If this was his wish, we wanted to make sure it was memorable for him. We hope he can come back - we want him back. He hung in there and he had a blast. That was our goal, and that was what we accomplished."

For more on the day's events, see excerpts from Timmy's mother, Susan's log, in the box below.

"Timmy was first presented with a "Certificate of Appreciation" in recognition of being promoted to Sergeant First Class. He also was presented with a plaque that said "From all the soldiers at U.T.E.S. Your courage through this time in your life is a credit to yourself and all the Soldiers who ever said "I can" and we know you will be victorious in all the battles throughout your life. We salute you". Timmy also received medals, pins, an Army jumpsuit, and a helmet autographed by all the Soldiers. He received a book from the Colonel about M1 Abrams tanks with pictures of the tanks in action.

Much to our surprise and Timmy's delight [there] was a huge remote-controlled M1 Abrams tank. This tank is about 3 feet long and has a 12 volt rechargeable battery. This wonderful group of soldiers took it upon themselves to go out and buy this for Timmy. I would like to thank each and every one of you for doing this for Timmy. It was so generous and as of today, Timmy is having so much fun with it."
(c) 2006 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs