Many of you may remember young Mitchell Louie and his battle with cancer. Here is an uplifting story from his blog at:www.caringbridge.org/visit/mitchelllouie
Pilot for a Day
A couple of months ago, Rhonda asked Mitchell’s PT gals for some Make a Wish ideas that Mitchell could do from a wheelchair. One of the PT gals contacted her brother, an F-16 pilot with the US Air Force, to see if Mitchell could be a “Pilot for a Day”. On Monday this week the very special event took place at Travis Air Force Base. Because we wanted to keep it a surprise Mitchell knew that he was going to take part in something, but didn’t know the details of where we were going or what we were doing. Little did we know, we were all in store for a great surprise.
Our day started out early in the morning getting Mitchell ready for the ~2 hour ride to Travis AFB. We signed in at security and drove to the squadron building where we were met by Mitchell’s crew: Pilot Coy Egbert, Flight Engineer Ben Hopp, and Boom Operator Kelly Chiolan. They were standing at attention saluting because not only was he a “Pilot for the day”, he was the honorary Squadron Captain! SM Sgt Tim Nelson organized the day and took care of us during all of the great activities all across the base.
We started with a tour of the building then went to the mission briefing. Mitchell put on his flight suit and we went into a large conference room filled with the personnel of 6th Air Refueling Squadron standing at attention and saluting. Commander Jim Craft presented Mitchell his pilot wings, dog tags, patches, pins, hat, and orders for his mission. The officer’s families welcomed us, the spouses gave Mitchell gifts and Nathaniel baked cookies. Mitchell’s mission was to tour the air traffic control tower, train on a simulator to fueling an aircraft in flight, pilot a KC10 to anywhere in the world in a flight simulator, board an active KC10 jet, and most importantly have fun!
The Control Tower gave a spectacular 360 degree view of the base. Mitchell was able to talk to one of the pilots flying a training mission across the air strip. Col. Tuck presented Mitchell with a coin and said that Mitchell’s courage and determination are the examples that everyone on the base strives to reach. Mitchell also received the very first coin representing the Control Tower. Helicopters, cargo & refueling aircraft, and a couple of F16s took off and landed during Mitchell’s watch. He was able to practice some of what he saw in the tower when we went to the flight simulators. Refueling aircraft in flight is a difficult task, but Mitchell was up for the challenge. Various aircraft came into view and he operated the robotic arm to refuel and keep them in the air. After that he flew under the Golden Gate Bridge and landed at Hickam AFB, Hawaii. It felt so real that we hoped that we could step out and go to the beach, but the simulator had its limits. Following the simulators it was time for some real refueling, we were guests at the Officer’s Club for lunch. We had a nice meal, relaxed for a while, then went to the airfield for a tour of a KC10 aircraft. Thanks to some strong young men, the stairs were not an issue for Mitchell and his wheelchair. It was very interesting to see one if the workhorses of the Air Force. It’s amazing to think about the places all over the world that it has flown to on a moment’s notice.
Our day started out great and kept getting better as we were escorted to each activity. During the tour, we met officers and enlisted men & women of every rank and they all treated Mitchell like he was a five star general. We feel extremely fortunate to have met these men and women serving our country everyday with pride, respect, and dignity as clearly displayed with Mitchell. The special coins and scarves representing the commanders & teams at Travis AFB will be prominently displayed with Mitchell’s pins from his vacation travels around the world. They are part of the memories from the great day Mitchell had as the Pilot for a Day. Thank you so much to everyone at Travis AFB for your involvement in a very memorable event. You did a great thing for Mitchell and our family and we truly appreciate all your efforts.
If it were possible to make the day even more special, our visit was featured as a news story on the CBS affiliate in Fairfield, CA. Usually camera shy Rhonda even got some airtime. Here’s the link to the story and a video clip on their website: http://cbs13.com/local/local_story_232202741.html
It’s wonderful that there are programs that let sick children dream then experience the impossible. It’s a hard enough journey getting back to complete health, so having the extra encouragement and support is always a boost to well being. Cancer can be a nightmare but so far it’s been about living out our dreams and not letting anything get in our way.
Here’s Mitchell’s comments, “Yesterday was truly a once in a lifetime experience. I know that not every kid gets a chance to do what I just experienced and it was a privilege and honor.”
Please continue to keep Mitchell in your prayers & positive thoughts for healing energy. We are staying positive and remembering “Patience without sacrificing perseverance.”