CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- The “Conquistadors” from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VR) 57, along with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, helped to make a young girl’s dream come true by allowing her to fly in a C-40A Clipper aircraft at Naval Base Coronado, July 20.
Fifteen-year-old Chelsie G. Cayford of Freeland, Idaho, was first diagnosed with a brain tumor almost two years ago. Since then, the tumor has brought on weight loss and loss of vision in one eye, resulting in Cayford having to endure painful chemotherapy treatment.
Since Cayford was a young child, she wanted to be a Navy pilot. Her illness prevented her from pursuing this career path. However, by flying in a Navy aircraft, Cayford experienced for the first time a pilot’s point of view, from take-off to touchdown.
“It was a fun flight and a chance for [Cayford] to experience what it’s like to be up in the cockpit and get her as close as possible to the experience,” said Cmdr. Thomas Hartmann, commanding officer of VR-57.
VR-57, which provides around-the-clock, worldwide logistics support for the Navy and Marine Corps regular and reserve forces, made Cayford an honorary member of the squadron by giving her a tour of their spaces, issuing her a personalized flight suit, a command coin and gifts presented by Hartmann’s family.
“The entire squadron opened their areas to make her feel as much at home as possible,” said Cmdr. Bill Crump, assigned to VR-57. “We wanted to make her feel like she was part of the Navy team today and part of VR-57.”
The C-40A Clipper aircraft featured a crew of five, consisting of three air crew members and two pilots, including Cayford. The crew outfitted Cayford with a headset and invited her to help with the pre-flight checklist, making her an active member of the mission.
“I had a great time; everybody was nice and supportive,” said Cayford. “They gave too much.”
The flight lasted a little more than an hour, with food and drinks provided by VR-57. When the flight was over, the time came for those involved to say goodbye.
“To be able to do something on the personal side is just so much more meaningful than new hardware or new buildings,” said Hartmann. “I’ve told the people in this command, it’s all about the people. It’s an amazingly touching event we were able to participate in.”
The Make-A-Wish foundation was established in 1980 to enrich the lives of children suffering from life-threatening medical conditions. Since then, the foundation has granted wishes for more than 144,000 children worldwide, recently helping Cayford realize her dream.
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