Five-year-old boy joins support squadron at McConnell

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Abigail Klein
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
While most children are preoccupied with what presents Santa will bring, 5-year-old Joey Bacon, is wondering if he'll have to seek treatment during the holidays.

Recently diagnosed with leukemia, the Wichita, Kan., native was selected by members of the 22nd Operations Support Squadron here to participate in their "Pilot for a Day" program Dec. 10.

Pilot for a Day is an Air Force program that enables medically-challenged youth a chance to visit an Air Force base, becoming part of the team in the process. The participants are usually selected through a partnership with a community hospital.

"(This program) gives us the opportunity to sit back and reflect and see the hardships that other people go through," said Maj. Travis Edwards, the 22nd OSS director of staff. "We see the sacrifices we as Airman make and sometimes we get beside ourselves because of this, but when you meet someone like Joey, who's fighting cancer and still finds joy, it really gives us a sense of humility and compassion."

Being part of the team at McConnell meant that Joey, and five members of his family, were invited by the Airmen in the 22nd OSS to "fly" one of McConnell's KC-135 Stratotanker simulators, tour a KC-135 and climb the 95-foot base control tower. Joey also was given a chance to ride in a base fire truck, operating the vehicle's powerful water turret and visit the 22nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog unit.

Joey's enthusiasm was echoed by his mother, Angie, particularly when he toured one of McConnell's 63 KC-135s.

"(Joey) loves planes (and) every time he sees one he points it out," she said. "Joey's been hospitalized more than four times since Sept. 23; this is the best he's felt in a long time."

The day concluded with a ceremony where Joey was presented with a 22nd OSS coin and a patch.

Joey's Pilot for a Day experience was one of four that McConnell Airmen have held since the program was reinstated in June 2010. 

Major Edwards said the value of McConnell Airmen participating in community programs like Pilot for a Day is meaningful for the Airmen involved.

"This is a wonderful program because it gives Team McConnell an opportunity to come together and show the community what it really takes to complete the mission," he said. "From the flightline to security forces, everyone played a big role that day because there's more to our Air Force than flying planes.