News>F-22 pilot flies boy's letter 'closer to heaven'
MacAidan “Mac” Gallegos, conducts a walk around inspection of an F-22 with Lt. Col. Brian Baldwin, a Reserve F-22 pilot assigned to the 302nd Fighter Squadron prior to his flight. Mac wrote a letter to his father Army Sgt. Justin Gallegos who was killed in Afghanistan in 2009 and wanted it to be flown as close to heaven as possible on his father's birthday. Gallegos died when enemy forces equipped with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades swarmed a pair of remote outposts in the Kamdesh district of Nuristan province. He was part of a group serving there with the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colo. Mac’s mother originally from Palmer, Alaska moved back to Anchorage in 2010. (U.S. Air Force Reserve Photo/Tech. Sgt. Dana Rosso)
Senior Airman Jennifer Dunham, 90th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, assists MacAidan “Mac” Gallegos with his headset so he can listen to the F-22 start up procedures. Mac wrote a letter to his father Army Sgt. Justin Gallegos who was killed in Afghanistan in 2009 and wanted it to be flown as close to heaven as possible on his father’s birthday. (U.S. Air Force Reserve Photo/Tech. Sgt. Dana Rosso)
Lt. Col. Brian Baldwin, a Reserve F-22 pilot assigned to the 302nd Fighter Squadron, takes off from Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska, Jan. 24, 2013. Tucked into his flight suit is a letter written by 9-year old MacAidan “Mac” Gallegos to his father Sgt. Justin Gallegos, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2009. Mac wanted the letter flown as close to heaven as possible on his father’s birthday. (U.S. Air Force Reserve Photo/Tech. Sgt. Dana Rosso)
MacAidan "Mac" Gallegos' letter to his father:
I have some questions. What is it like in a tank? What is it like to be a scout? How old are you now? How old were you when you died? What is your favorite food? What is your favorite animal? What is your favorite hobby? What is your favorite activity? What is it like in heaven? Have you seen what I have accomplished?
From your son
(U.S. Air Force Reserve photo/Tech. Sgt. Dana Rosso)
by Capt. Ashley Conner
477th Fighter Group Public Affairs
1/28/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF RICHARDSON, Alaska (AFNS) -- MacAidan "Mac" Gallegos was only 5 when his father, Army Sgt. Justin Gallegos, was killed in Afghanistan in 2009. Not a day goes by that he doesn't think about him. On days like Jan. 24, his father's 31st birthday, he has found a special way to celebrate his birthday and honor his memory.
"I wanted to write my dad a letter and get it as close to heaven as possible," said Mac.
Mac and his mother Amanda Marr discussed ways to get the letter to heaven but ultimately decided that having someone fly it would be the best.
"I posted on Facebook that we were looking for a pilot who could fly the letter for Mac," said Marr. "Kyle Moxley from HAVE Alaska contacted me and said he would coordinate and try to make it happen."
Helping American Veterans Experience Alaska, or HAVE Alaska, was stood up in 2010 by Moxley and his wife Carla to provide opportunities for Veterans to experience hunting and fishing excursions in Alaska.
A few emails and phone calls later Mac, his mother and his step-father, Army Master Sgt. Jeremy Marr, were meeting Senior Airman Jennifer Dunham, 90th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief who gave them a tour of the Raptor.
Before stepping to fly Lt. Col. Brian Baldwin, a Reserve F-22 pilot assigned to the 302nd Fighter Squadron, met Mac at his F-22 where the little boy handed over the letter to his father written on red construction paper, his dad's favorite color.
"It is an honor to fly with Mac's letter," said Baldwin. "His father gave the greatest sacrifice to our country and I am humbled to be able to do something for him and his family."
Mac and his family have baked cupcakes and said they look forward to taking time out to remember Gallegos on his birthday.
"Over the years we would have a party for Justin on his birthday," said Marr, who grew up in Palmer, Alaska but now resides in Anchorage. "As Mac has gotten older we have turned it into a day where we do "Acts of Service" for others. It is important for us to remember Justin and celebrate his life."
2/2/2013 3:01:26 AM ET I would like to know how high the F-22 flew to get to the boy to Heaven Maybe the boy can write another letter and it can be released into space on the next mission to the ISS.
SGT Mike, Home
2/1/2013 10:05:38 AM ET I actually teared up a little bit reading this That's an incredible story. MSgt Southwest don't look at it as the military supporting religion look at it as the military fulfilling the wish of a 9 year old son of a father that gave his life defending his country in the same united states military as you. I understand we have guidelines to follow rules and regulations but there is nothing here expressing beliefs of a god or any higher power and also in many many occasions the skies are reffered to as The Heavens So I'd say we can let this go.. I'm not going to ask how you would feel in this situation because of course you would give me the air force answer and not a real one.
1/29/2013 2:22:36 PM ET I am sad to read such negative comments from active duty airmen.Msgt and Maj This is not the legacy I hoped to leave behind so many years ago reading such things fill me with shame. What is wrong with giving a little boy some hope Thank you Col Baldwin
Robert Davis, United Kingdom
1/29/2013 1:34:36 PM ET KUDOS to LTC Baldwin and USAF for keeping alive the memory inspiration and dreams of a 'child' alive. No doubt he'll someday pass on the act of 'kindess'.
MAJ. DANIELS, JBAB Wash DC
1/29/2013 1:32:48 PM ET MSgt Southwest any extra weight carried aboard an aircraft causes that aircraft to burn an extra 1 percent of that weight in fuel per hour. The Raptor probably flew a 2 hour sortie and the paper probably weighed .013 pounds causing the Raptor to burn an extra .00026 lbs of fuel. There are 6.7 lbs of JP8 in a gallon so that's .000038 gallons. If the AF pays 5 dollars per gallon of JP8 which is a conservative estimate that means it cost .00019 dollars or .019 cents for this deed to occur. If you don't think the child's memory of his father is worth at least .019 cents you truly have no soul.
Maj, Home for a change
1/29/2013 10:01:34 AM ET Although I am a firm beleiver that religion should be a matter of personal descretion I do not beleive this particular instance was supporting anything other than a childs curiousity and memory.
1/29/2013 1:49:01 AM ET This should have been strictly forbidden by Air Force leadership because it supports religion in the military. Heaven should not be allowed in the Air Force right
Maj, Home for a change
1/28/2013 11:28:36 PM ET This article speaks volumes to the nobility of the USAF. Very proud to know that soldiers like Lt. Col. Baldwin are on the watch for us all and especially for little heroes like MacAidan.
Scott Chandler, Nevada USA
1/28/2013 12:44:50 PM ET Kind thoughts of a special mission.Well done USAF