Posted 2/13/2013 Updated 2/13/2013 Email story Print story
by Staff Sgt. Terri Barriere
15th Wing Public Affairs
2/13/2013 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Caleb Jensen has dreamed of becoming a pilot for as long as he can remember. He thought about it, talked about it and on Feb. 8 his dream came true.
Caleb, 15, was selected for the Pilot For a Day program after undergoing an intense battle with aplastic anemia, a condition which causes the body to stop producing new blood cells. After being admitted to Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women and Children for treatment, he was identified by the hospital's child life specialist and nurses as a good candidate for the private organization, Pilot For a Day, and an experience with the 15th Wing, focused on children with serious or chronic medical conditions.
Capt. Todd Walker, said Pilot For a Day invites children of all ages, military or civilian, to be guests of the wing and one of its flying squadrons for an entire day. In so doing, the mission is to give each child a special day and a break from whatever challenges they are facing.
"Pilot For a Day came at the perfect time," said Melissa Jensen, Caleb's mom. "It came at the end of his treatment and was really a good way for us to celebrate things getting back to normal."
Melissa said after finding out Caleb's diagnosis in June, setting up a bone marrow transplant between him and his sister in August, and home-schooling him while nursing him back to health for the remainder of last year; she knew Pilot for a Day would be perfect for him.
"I agreed to let him participate, because I knew he'd love it," she said. "He's done nothing but talk about being a pilot and his love for flying for a while now. This was perfect for him."
After receiving a clean bill of health at his most recent medical appointment, Caleb was more than ready to leave the doctors and hospitals in the past and engage in a little fun.
Caleb, who said he's not sure of anything else he'd like to accomplish other than becoming a pilot of "something big," is now considering the military as a possible avenue to fulfilling his life-long dream.
"This was really good timing, I'm feeling tons better," he said. "My favorite part of the day was definitely the KC-135 simulator. It's as close to flying as I can get right now and it was really a lot of fun. I can't wait to tell my friends I got to fly a plane while they were at school."
To make the moment even sweeter for Caleb, his parents, brother and three sisters were able to share the experience. And just as his family rallied around him in support as he underwent his treatments, they were there to share the moment he notably marks as one of the best days of his life.
"We've been through a really hard time together, so it's good to be able to experience the really good ones together as well," Melissa said of her family's participation in Pilot For a Day. "This will be a lasting memory my whole family shares and it was a lot of fun."
The mother said that after the ups and downs of the past several months, it was refreshing to see her children having so much fun.
"Just watching their faces light up ...everyone had these great big smiles on their face," she said.
Col. Terry Scott, 15th Wing vice commander, said those smiles, in essence, are what the Pilot For a Day program is all about.
"I feel lucky, privileged, honored and very fortunate to participate in Pilot For a Day," he said. "It's great to meet such good people who have overcome such obstacles. They've earned my respect and it doesn't matter how old they are, it's respectable to see someone not giving up, not quitting, taking life by the horns and going out there and living - seizing life."
Scott said supporting programs like Pilot For a Day show the compassionate side of the U.S. military, a point not lost on the Jensen family.
"Thank you so much for your generosity," said Caleb. "This was so much fun. I really would enjoy coming back to do it again. This was definitely the best Friday ever!"
13 February 2013
Pilot For a Day: Caleb Jensen