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Spokane Boy Lives Dream As 'Airman For A Day'
by USAF Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton - May 19, 2012

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FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFNS - 5/16/2012) -- A 10-year-old boy, who has been fighting a cancerous tumor on his optic nerve and endured 1.5 years of chemotherapy, had the opportunity to become an "Airman for a day" here May 4.

Samuel Burke checks out the cockpit of a KC-135 Stratotanker on May 4, 2012, in the maintenance hangar during his tour of various agencies across the installation at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. The “Airman for a day” program aims to enable children with serious medical conditions to experience the Air Force first-hand. Burke is a 10-year-old boy from Spokane, Wash., who has been fighting a cancerous tumor on his optic nerve. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
Samuel Burke checks out the cockpit of a KC-135 Stratotanker on May 4, 2012, in the maintenance hangar during his tour of various agencies across the installation at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. The “Airman for a day” program aims to enable children with serious medical conditions to experience the Air Force first-hand. Burke is a 10-year-old boy from Spokane, Wash., who has been fighting a cancerous tumor on his optic nerve. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
 Sam, from Spokane, Wash., was the first youth to participate in this program, which was started by the Fairchild AFB Company Grade Officer's Council. The program gives children a break from whatever challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.

"It means a lot to me to be a part of something so important to someone as brave as Sam," said 2nd Lt. Nick Kim, the 92nd Air Refueling Wing CGOC president. "This program's intent is to give a child like Sam, who is battling a serious medical condition, the opportunity to experience the Air Force first-hand. With the help of base Airmen and the CGOC, I hope we were able to show Sam and his family something special; hopefully something he will never forget."

And according to Sam, not only will he not forget his time here, but he said he may make it a career some day.

"When I was little, I would say, 'Hey mom!
I'm gonna be a Soldier,'" Sam said. "After what I experienced today, I would totally become an Airman."

Sam, along with his mother, Valentina, and sister, Madeline, began his tour with a visit with Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Deist, the 141st Air Refueling Wing's command chief. The chief explained how Fairchild AFB's active duty and Air National Guard members work together.

Airmen from more than 10 agencies here came together to show off their mission. Members donated items including: an explosive ordinance disposal ball cap, a firefighting helmet, a custom-sized airman battle uniform, a survival evasion resistance escape beret and a second lieutenant's flight suit, complete with 92nd ARW patches and rank.

"EOD was definitely my favorite," Sam said. "Because they get to blow things up!"

During his visit to EOD, Sam not only got to try on their bomb suit, operate their robot and learn more about the weapons they use down range, but he also had the opportunity to head out to their test range and dispose of five pounds of C4 explosives.

"Most people don't understand exactly what we do," said Master Sgt. Jesus Hernandez, the 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron EOD flight chief. "It's really great having the opportunity to show somebody like Sam what we do day in and day out and expose them to how important our mission really is."

Though EOD may have been Sam's favorite, Sam was Fairchild AFB's favorite Airman.

"I think this is a really great experience for young people like Sam," said Staff Sgt. Sean Marlow, a SERE specialist with the 22nd Training Squadron. "We got to show him what we do -- so anything we can do to help. He's worked the hardest of anyone here."

Marlow, referring to Sam's ongoing fight with his cancerous tumor, said he has the utmost respect for the boy who watches nothing but the Military Channel when allowed television time.

Staff Sgt. Jose Cadena, a military-working-dogs trainer with the 92nd Security Forces Squadron, said it was an honor to see the smile on Sam's face when he saw Cadena's dog, Dakota, demonstrate her skills of taking down an "aggressor."

Finally, the young Batman enthusiast not only got to "fly" a KC-135 Stratotanker flight simulator, but also refueled an F-35 Lightning II in the boom operator's simulator.

"We're all about making wishes happen," said Tech. Sgt. Justin Dixon, a boom operator with the 92nd Air Refueling Squadron. "I've had a lot of family who have dealt with cancer over the years, so seeing how motivated and driven Sam is means a lot to me.

"I think the 'Airman for a Day' program not only helps kids like Sam deal with what they're going through, but it helps their families as well," Dixon added.

Sam's mother said they felt welcome during their visit to here and wanted to thank all agencies involved.

"I think it was so great of everyone to have made such a special day for Sam," she said. "Everyone put so much time and effort into this; we couldn't have been in better hands. The best part about what (everybody) did for Sam is that he couldn't stop smiling and laughing. This was a huge morale boost for my son. Thank you."

By USAF Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News Service
Copyright 2012

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