News: 5-Year-Old Becomes Air Guard's Latest 'Pilot for a Day'
By Spc. Kristin Berg
231st Brigade Support Battalion
FARGO, N.D. - First Lt. Andy Teigen and Col. Rick Gibney kneeled down to pin general rank on Garrett Beckwith, 5, today. Garrett was chosen to be a "Pilot for a Day" for the North Dakota Air National Guard.
"You're going to be the boss today," said Gibney, 119th Wing commander. "You are going to be my boss; you're going to be everyone's boss."
Garrett, of Frazee, Minn., was diagnosed Feb. 28 with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. He received an order by mail to "report for duty," and took his oath of office with Gibney, promising to "enjoy the day, have fun, and be a great pilot."
Garrett received his own flight suit and many other cool items, including unit patches and dog tags. The smile never faded from Garrett's face as he ran through the day's events from a flight simulator to an airplane hangar to the fire hall. In fact, the smile seemed to grow with each new activity. His mother, grandmother, aunt and two cousins also joined him for the day.
During the morning briefing, Garrett told everyone he had lots of questions.
When asked what some of his questions were, Garrett grinned and asked the Wing's command chief, "What's nine plus two?" This energy, excitement and curiosity radiated throughout the events.
"It's overwhelming just seeing him being happy," said Virginia Beckwith, Garrett's mother. "He hasn't had much fun since he got sick."
The Pilot for a Day program honors a child who is fighting or has overcome a life-threatening illness or condition.
Garrett had the opportunity to experience a high-tech simulated MQ-1 Predator pod, where he blew up a tank on one of a series of screens and served as a sensor operator, giving directions to his cousins on target acquisition.
Next, he went outside to see the C-21 Lear jet. While standing outside the jet, Garrett spotted a plane fly by that he had talked to on the radio from inside the jet in the hangar. Just as the plane disappeared, Garrett turned around to see fire trucks rushing to him.
"Oh no, they are gonna come for me," Garrett giggled.
Then, he was rushed out in the truck to put out a "fire" on base. He was even able to spray water on the plane containing North Dakota Army National Guard Soldiers returning from Kuwait. Garrett then checked out more planes while eating his favorite pizza - mushroom, Canadian bacon, pineapple and bacon - at the Fargo Air Museum. The day ended with a farewell ceremony that included adding Garrett's photo to a wall display dedicated to the youths who have completed a similar mission.
"I have done a lot of cool things," Garrett said.
Date Posted:08.17.2012 20:11
Location:FARGO, ND, US
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