`Swoosh’ welcomed as 334th FS pilot for a day
By Senior Airman Ashley J. Thum, 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 08, 2015
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. (AFNS) -- He's nine years old, loves basketball, and has a heart as big as his smile.
Jeremiah Seaberry, also known by his call sign "Swoosh," was made an honorary member of the 334th Fighter Squadron during a 4th Fighter Wing Pilot for a Day (PFAD) event, April 3.
Immediately upon his arrival to the squadron, Swoosh was welcomed into the 334th FS with a flight suit, patches and a complete mission brief for him and his family by Capt. Kat Frost, the PFAD project officer.
Swoosh also met his crewmate for the day, Capt. Adam Luber, a 334th FS pilot, while at the squadron. The two became quick friends as Jeremiah experienced firsthand the life of an Air Force fighter pilot, from gearing up in a helmet and G-force compression pants to flying sorties in an F-15E Strike Eagle simulator.
"Captain Luber is awesome," Swoosh said.
To see him running around the squadron's crud table with Luber, grinning from ear-to-ear while using his flight suit's oxygen hose as a microphone to sing into, one would find it hard to believe that Swoosh wasn't expected to live past his first birthday. Although he has exceeded expectations, Swoosh continues to suffer from severe sickle cell disease.
"It's stunted his growth, and his body will mature later than other children his age," said Portia Seaberry, Swoosh's grandmother. "He knows he's different and it has affected the way he looks at himself in comparison with other children."
Frost said the PFAD program was designed specifically for children just like Swoosh.
"This program is for children who have experienced some type of difficulty in their life, whether that's because of illness or a disability," Frost said. "We work with the 4th Medical Group and medical providers in the local community to identify children that qualify for and may be interested in this opportunity."
Swoosh may deal with the pain and other obstacles, but he doesn't let that stop him from thinking of others. His caring personality was evident throughout the day as he made sure his family members, Rico, Jerrel, Melissa and his grandmother, were included in the day's activities. He admitted he was surprised he was chosen for the program.
"They picked me out of everybody," was his wide-eyed reaction. "It made me feel special."
Swoosh and Luber made quite a pair, particularly in the flight simulator as they bantered back and forth like true crewmates.
"You got me, Swoosh?," Luber asked from the weapons systems officer seat.
"Yeah, I got you," Swoosh replied.
Their exchanges were punctuated by cheers as Swoosh successfully achieved multiple objectives in the pilot position.
"He was really interested in all of our fighter pilot traditions and I think the whole family enjoyed the day," Frost said. "Knowing we were able to give him these memories that might help him get through some tough times made it one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had."
Swoosh quickly caught on to one particular tradition, using special coins to "challenge" one another. Throughout the day, he gave shy smiles to new acquaintances before slyly producing one of his newly acquired coins in hopes of earning a free soft drink.
Portia was overwhelmed with her grandson being treated, as she called it, "a king for a day."
"To think that they would even consider children who have disabilities and things like that ... I feel like crying," Portia said. "It makes us feel like somebody cares. Thank you all so much. He's going to talk about this from now on."
Swoosh won't have a shortage of stories to share from his day. To cap it off, he and his crewmate "stepped" to an F-15E with his name and call sign temporarily affixed to the nose, and Col. Mark Slocum, the 4th Fighter Wing commander, presented him with flight wings "symbolizing the completion of his pilot training."
When asked how his day went, Swoosh had but one word. "Perfect."