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Keesler honors "Pilot for a day"

  • Published
  • By Jonathan Hicks
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Sean Peneguy, a seventh grader at Bay Middle School in Bay St. Louis, became a "Pilot for a Day" at Keesler Aug. 14.

Sean was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer called "Ewing's sarcoma" a year ago. Through the Make-A-Wish-Foundation, which has granted wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions since 1980, Sean finally got his dream of being a pilot. Outfitted in his specially made flight suit, he began the morning with members of the 45th Airlift Squadron, his escorts for the day.

When Col. Christopher Valle, 81st Training Wing vice commander, met Sean, he asked, "Why do you want to fly?"

Sean simply answered, "Because it's fun."

The colonel replied, "I have to admit, I like flying better than working, too."

Sean's mother and stepfather, Charlene and Randy Hearndon, along with two sisters and a family friend watched him get his flight suit built up with badges needed to complete his official uniform.

Lt. Col. Jimmy Canlas, 45th AS commander, pinned on the American flag, the 45th AS patch and a special Make-A-Wish patch.

Colonel Valle told Sean, "It's a privilege to serve our country, and now you're a part of the brotherhood of pilots," as he pinned pilot wings over Sean's heart.

Col. Merrill Armstrong, Air Force Flight Standards Agency commander, presented his military coin and informed Sean of the purpose of the "round metal object" in the pilot fraternity.

Then Colonel Canlas presented Sean a pilot scarf, noting, "The scarves were used by pilots during the early days of aviation to wipe the oil off their goggles from the leaking planes."

Colonel Canlas revealed Sean's new call sign of "Thumbs" to represent his love of video games.

Sean's day included a ride in the C130-J Super Hercules flight simulator, a military working dog demonstration, a simulated fire department rescue and other activities.

YoLanda Wallace, Keesler Public Affairs, contributed to this report.