JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
Angel Vasquez woke up June 29 on his 17th birthday not expecting the surprise of being recognized as an honorary pilot at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.
Maj. John McCann, 560th Flying Training Squadron T-38C Talon instructor pilot, accompanied “Po,” Vasquez’s call sign, throughout the day, answering questions and ensuring he and his family had a memorable experience.
McCann led a tour of the squadron, fire station, air traffic control tower, and flight simulator, and presented Angel with his own flight suit, patches and name badge.
“I thought I was coming to base so my dad could do paperwork,” Angel said. “I was super excited when I was told I was going to be the Pilot for a Day.”
Grateful for the hospitality of the pilots and the first-hand experience with the T-1A Jayhawk, T-38 Talon and T-6A Texan II, Michele Jimenez, Angel’s mom was very pleased.
“Just seeing him the way he is makes me happy,” Jimenez explained, watching her youngest son exploring the cockpit of a T-1A Jayhawk.
Angel was all smiles from the front gate and throughout the day’s events.
“This feels like the real deal,” Angel said. “Seeing my name on the plane makes me feel like I own it.”
The Pilot for a Day program participants battle a variety of illnesses and diseases, to include terminal illnesses. For many children with severe, but not terminal illnesses, the program is a significant milestone in their recovery.
“I’m so grateful the Air Force does this for kids with my illness,” Angel said. “This is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity.”
Angel was diagnosed with leukemia in August 2015 during his freshman year of high school. His family heard about the Pilot for a Day program after a spinal tap appointment in April.
Jimenez told her son, “It’s not about the ‘C’ word today, it’s about you.”