JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
The 433rd Airlift Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland hosted 8-year-old Giovanny Gallegos, who is battling high risk leukemia, as the Pilot for a Day Sept. 8.
The Alamo Wing, in partnership with the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, sponsors the Pilot for the Day program. The program’s goal is to provide children, who have serious or chronic medical conditions, and their families the opportunity to be a guest of the Air Force Reserve Citizen Airmen for the day.
“After all he has been through, I feel really blessed to have my Gio chosen to be Pilot for the Day,” said his mother, Jessica Gallegos.
What touched her emotions was the line of Reserve Citizen Airmen and Civil Air Patrol cadets assembled in two lines, saluting Giovanny as he walked up to the front cargo deck a C-5M Super Galaxy.
“I felt like crying,” she said. “It looked so nice and I thought it was like they were recognizing him for everything he has been through.
“Last year he had a heart attack and had multiple strokes before they discovered the leukemia,” she said. “That was due to how aggressive his leukemia was. His cardiologist told me that he has never seen a child with so much heart damage do so good.”
“It’s extremely important for the Alamo Wing to give back to the community and a wonderful opportunity to host the Pilot for the Day program,” said Col. Thomas “TK” Smith Jr., 433rd AW commander.
The program strives to give children a special day as an honorary pilot and a break from the challenges they face. The children are selected for the program by the Children’s Hospital.
The day began with Gallegos being “sworn in” as an honorary second lieutenant by Smith, who then gave Gallegos and his family a mission brief before continuing the tour.
His next stop was at the C-5 Formal Training Unit to learn how to fly a C-5M Super Galaxy simulator. Lt. Col. Doug Brown, 68th Airlift Squadron pilot, taught Gallegos about flying the $36 million simulator and presented him with a squadron shirt, coins and patches.
“It was fun, it was like a video game,” Giovanny said.
Gallegos “landed” at JBSA-Lackland after his simulated flight which included the skylines of San Francisco, California, Honolulu, Hawaii and San Antonio. Gallegos then visited the base's Fire Station No. 2 to meet the firefighters and learn about their station and how they use their firefighting equipment.
His day ended with lunch at the Live Oak Inn, where Gallegos and his family were able to eat in a military dining facility with the commander, vice commander and command chief before receiving a plaque and photo of his “swearing in” ceremony.
Programs like this are an important bridge between Reserve Citizen Airmen and Military City U.S.A., according to Smith. “Especially here in the Reserves, we have Citizen Airmen, so we are the community. It really makes us feel special about what we do,” he said.