JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
The Saturday of a Unit Training Assembly is usually fraught with work orders, computer based training or preparing for real-world missions at the 433rd Airlift Wing. On Nov. 5, 2016; however, members took some time to make the dream of a little girl come true: to be an Airman for the day.
The opportunity arose when 5-year-old, Mayra Salinas met some wing members who were volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House. Mayra’s family was staying at the facility, which provides a home away from home for families wishing to stay close to their children being treated at nearby medical facilities.
Mayra’s medical condition, a malignant glioma, is a tumor on her brain stem. This condition is serious, and may take her life within the next six months to a year according to her grandmother, Erica Salinas.
“I pray every day that God will give us a bit longer,” she said. “But I think she is strong; she is a fighter.”
According to Mayra’s family, she likes anything that flies. “My husband had to go buy her a toy drone,” said Erica.
When Mayra learned that the volunteers were members of a wing with the largest aircraft in the Air Force, the C-5M Super Galaxy, she wanted to see the plane up close.
Upon hearing Mayra's prognosis, Tech. Sgt. Ernesto Compean, Rising 6 president and 433rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron technician, and his organization immediately went into action planning how to show her the C-5M.
“That is what set the plan in motion,” he said. “Knowing the limited time that she has, we wanted to make it a special day.”
Mayra’s first order of business was taking an oath as she was inducted into the Rising 6, a private organization made up of wing members from the first six enlisted pay grades. The group sponsored her tour of the aircraft and were instrumental in getting her a tailor made Air Force uniform with chief master sergeant stripes.
“I am so glad they could do this for her,” said Erica. “My family is honored for them (the wing members) to take the time to do it.”
Compean believes in Airmen growing and contributing locally.
“We have to give back to our community,” he said. “When our Airmen see the wing doing stuff like this, it completes the whole Airman concept; it helps them grow.”
At first, the Salinas family was just going to see the C-5M Super Galaxy, Compean said. Then, word spread and Mayra received coins, a flag, T-shirts and models of the aircraft.
“The whole wing showed their support,” Compean said. “It became bigger than the Rising 6. It was great.”
Mayra’s grandmother believes in the power of prayer, and in Mayra’s will to live.
“She will fight for as long as she can,” she said. “Like I tell my son and my daughter-in-law, 'it is going to be a good long journey.' I just pray every day because you never know what tomorrow is going to bring. We take it day-by-day and try to make her (Mayra) happy.”
Putting a smile on Mayra's face is something the wing accomplished with the visit's finishing touch of having her sit in the pilot’s seat of the largest aircraft in the Air Force.
“This weekend was not just about CBTs, medical appointments or getting shots,” Compean said. “We (wing members) were helping somebody out. You can see the excitement in everybody’s faces. Yes, you can see that it is a sad situation, but they are extremely happy to be part of this.”
The Rising 6 is an organization comprised of Airmen in the rank of E-1 through E-6. The group is designed to promote professional development opportunities, welfare, and morale, mentoring and camaraderie for noncommissioned officers.