John Seelie, 94, designed a pin to commemorate the day.
ENGLEWOOD — Pearl Harbor survivor John Seelie will travel to New York City on Tuesday and take part in a whirlwind schedule of activities that includes appearances at a variety of functions during Fleet Week, as well as his main objective — to pay his respects at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center.
The 94-year-old Seelie, the last survivor of the 25th Infantry Division that was assigned to Schofield Barracks at Wheeler Field, will pay his respects in a short, private ceremony at about 10 a.m. Thursday. He had planned to do this on May 15, but organizers connected with Fleet Week urged his friend Mike Cahill to move the trip to coincide with that.
“It affected me,” Seelie said of the terrorist attacks. “It really affected our whole country; I’ve always felt bad about it.”
Though not an artist, in 2001 Seelie designed a pin to commemorate the day. The pin features the words “God bless America,” “Out of this twisted steel and smoldering ashes America rises,” and “Sept. 11, 2001,” superimposed over a photo of first responders raising the American Flag over the rubble at the World Trade Center.
He gave away all but one of those pins. He wears the remaining one affixed to his Pearl Harbor Survivor hat, a symbolic link between two tragedies — one military and one civilian.
Another run of about 100 pins have been made, and Seelie plans to give them away on his trip.
Once Seelie pays his respects, he will be the only known Pearl Harbor survivor to visit Ground Zero — a tangible link between the two events.
How it came together
The trip to New York grew out of a discussion between Seelie and Cahill, after he returned home from the 75th annual commemoration of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Cahill, a retired Ohio developer, helped organize a Veterans Day tribute to Seelie at the Chalk Festival and spearheaded drives to help pay for Seelie’s travel to Hawaii, which was funded partly by the Greatest Generation Foundation.
Cahill had planned to raise money for the trip via a GoFundMe page.
But after Maverick Johnson, a board member of the Denis V. Cooper Foundation, wishesforheroes.org, read a Feb. 25 Herald-Tribune story on that effort, he reached out to Cahill and offered the backing of the foundation.
“If anyone is deserving of a wish, it would be this hero,” said Johnson, a local radio personality on 92.1 CTQ, Suncoast Country.
The foundation, which has granted about half-dozen wishes since it started almost three years ago, agreed to pick up Seelie’s airfare and lodging.
“We are honored to do it, it’s kind of why we have the foundation,” Johnson said.
Seelie and Cahill will travel with Emi Kopke, the artist who designed a special commemorative shirt that Cahill gave Seelie on Veterans Day.
Cahill is traveling on his own dime, as are two foundation board members — Derek…