Growing up with three older brothers, I always looked up to them and often found myself interested in the same things they were. One of these things being aviation and flight. I remember playing those types of games together. My brothers really instilled that aviation and flight were “cool.” They would talk about wanting to be pilots and all the time, but they never actually did it. Even when they joined the military, they never flew a plane because they picked jobs that had nothing to do with flying planes. However, I was determined to make that childhood dream come to life.
I also joined the military, but I joined the National Guard so I could go to college right away. I also picked a job that would keep me near aviation by working as a crew member for Chinook helicopters. I attended Southern Illinois University’s Aviation Flight program at the same time I was training to be a Crew Chief. From the first moment I took flight, there was just something different—something about it that I had never experienced before. Surrounded by beautiful sights and just feeling completely in control. I think that was my favorite part,
“The freedom to fly is like nothing else. The sky is your office and you can go wherever you want. Total freedom.”
As my journey with aviation and flight have continued, I now work as an Assistant Chief Flight Instructor at Vincennes University. This means I manage maintenance for the fleet, do internal training, and teaching. It’s a full-time job for sure, but to have the chance to work with something I am so passionate about is incredible. I remember Jason, my boss, asking me to do a simulator event for an organization. So, going into it my goal was to show up and make sure the kid had fun and felt better than when they started. This was how I first found out about Flight1.
After that simulator event, and learning more about Flight1’s purpose of helping children facing serious health challenges, I couldn’t help but continue to take more of those events—sometimes I would even take them all for myself. I remember one courageous flyer very vividly. Her name was Hope. She was a little girl with growth difficulties who had been through many major surgeries. It was such a sad story, but the pain didn’t show. When she walked in, she had on her flying jacket with wings from almost every airline you could imagine. Her smile was bright and wide with excitement. Despite the serious health challenges and struggles Hope faced, she had such a good time and radiated joy. I remember thinking how happy I was that I was able to give her that memorable experience. I am so glad that I was able to find an organization like Flight1 through the work I do with aviation and flight.
“I appreciate what the organization does. It is tremendous the amount that they care for the children and families they serve. Even throughout the pandemic, their efforts to continue to help those kids rebuild confidence was admirable. There is a lot of benefit for the kids in the program, especially because they are getting to do things that they may not be able to do again.”