132d Wing hosts 'Pilot for a Day' Event for Inspirational Kids

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Katelyn Noel
  • 132d Wing Public Affairs

On June 4, 2023, the 132d Wing hosted a "Pilot for a Day" event, at the Des Moines Airbase. The event brought together four young patients and their families from local Iowa children's hospitals and the Soldiers and Airmen of the Iowa National Guard, transforming the dreams of these resilient children into a tangible reality.

Charlie, an 8-year-old boy from Nevada, IA was born with several congenital heart defects that required surgery shortly after birth. Due to complications from his heart defects Charlie has a tracheostomy tube and ventilator to help him breathe, cerebral palsy, and is being considered for a kidney transplant. Charlie remains an outgoing and happy young boy who brings a smile to everyone he meets.

Mia, a 6-year-old girl, was diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) at the Iowa City children’s hospital in 2020. After two and a half years of treatment, multiple ports and rounds of chemotherapy, and battling diabetes, Mia is cancer free. She hopes to one day make it to Disney World and tell of the princesses that she beat cancer!

Sage, a 5-year-old boy, was diagnosed with B-Cell ALL in 2022. He battled the cancer all while remaining a smart, sweet, and inquisitive rule-follower. He is a nature lover, enjoys movie snuggles with mom, building things with dad, wrestling his brother, and is a fan of all superheroes.

Sawyer, a 7-year-old boy from Diagonal, IA was diagnosed with B-Cell ALL in 2021. His cancer treatment had a rough start, with many overnight hospital stays. Sawyer enjoys all things sports and outdoors, including basketball, fishing, and dirt bike riding. After 849 days, on May 26th, 2023, Sawyer rang the bell, signifying the completion of his cancer journey.

The four children were greeted by leadership, given their own flight suites, and had the opportunity to test the MQ-9 Reaper simulator and sit in the cockpit of an UH-60 Blackhawk. Other Army and Air Force aircraft and equipment were also on display for the kids to experience. Each child was assigned a personal Air Force pilot as their guide, mentor, and source of inspiration throughout the day. Through this immersive experience, these young heroes were treated to an unforgettable day of exploration, inspiration, and a chance to experience the life of a pilot.

“Our mission today was to generate as many smiles as possible for these kids and create an amazing day that they’d never forget in hopes of replacing some of the tough days they’re trying to forget. They’ve been through some of the toughest situations imaginable (even to a grown adult) and yet they continue to display such happy, positive attitudes,” said Lt. Col. Todd “Sling” Glade, Commander, 132d Operations Support Squadron.

Throughout the event, the Soldiers and Airmen not only shared their passion but also took the opportunity to accomplish training and community outreach. The mentors always encouraged the kids and their families to believe in their own abilities and to always reach for the skies.

“Frequently hosting and educating our community neighbors and showcasing the benefits the Iowa Guard has to offer is vital to strengthening our working relationships with them resulting in a much stronger community,” said Glade.

The Iowa Air National Guard’s "Pilot for a Day" event stands as a testament to the ability of the human spirit to rise above adversity, and the profound impact that a community can have when it comes together to support those in need. It serves as a reminder that dreams can become a reality, and that even amidst challenges, hope and joy can flourish.

“The incredible strength, determination and resiliency of these young kids, especially after all they’ve been through in such a short amount of time, is both amazing and inspiring- they truly set the example for us to follow and today we learned from them,” said Glade.