Make-A-Wish families enjoy time with Thunderbirds ahead of Grissom airshow

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Courtney Dotson-Essett
  • 434th ARW Public Affairs

The high flying Thunderbirds came to a halt on Sept. 6, 2019 for a very special reason-the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Four children from the Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana Make-A-Wish organization came to Grissom to spend time on the base, and with the famous Thunderbirds ahead of the Grissom Air and Space Expo Sept. 7-8, 2019.

Make-A-Wish is a non-profit organization that grants wishes to children diagnosed with critical illnesses.

The event was an opportunity for the families to witness a portion of the show, without a large crowd, environmental stressors or barriers.

"It’s such a great opportunity for them to be a family and not have to worry about other things,” said Haley Mahan, development associate with Make-A-Wish.

Prior to practice, participating families had lunch with wing leadership while listening to music from the Air Force Band of mid-America.

Explosive ordnance technicians from the 434th Civil Engineering Squadron provided a robot for demonstrations, and gave the children a chance at the controls.

Crews from Hurlburt Field, Florida opened up an AC-130U Spooky gunship, flown in for the air show, giving the families a private tour.

“This was so fun for them,” said Mahan. “They saw a lot of great things and it’s been a great experience.”

Equipped with hearing protection, model F-16 planes and smiles, the children camped out near the flight line to watch the aerial maneuvers and stunts that make the Thunderbirds so unique.

After the practice, members of the Thunderbirds held a meet and greet, where they took pictures and chatted with the families.

“I think it’s nice that they reached out and they included our whole family,” said Lauren Dewitt, a parent from Ft. Wayne, Ind. “It was really nice and the kids loved it.”

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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