A Fighter and a Pilot

  • Published
  • By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Megan E. Myhre
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing, Public Affairs
Maddy Hunt is just like any other 12-year-old girl. She has a sunny disposition, an abundance of energy and a roll-with-the-flow attitude. Just looking at her, it would be impossible to know that at just 4 years old, Maddy was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“It was the Thursday and Friday before Thanksgiving of 2009. She had been running a fever on and off for a few days and we didn’t know why so we went in to see the doctor. They did some blood work, and the following Monday we went to our pediatrician for results,” said Jay Hunt, Maddy’s father. “We found out the Monday before Thanksgiving that she was diagnosed with leukemia.”

With her family by her side, she went through two and a half years of treatment and officially went into remission in March 2012.

Most children are more likely to relapse within the first year off treatment, so in March 2013, she and her family celebrated. Unfortunately, the very next month, Maddy began showing signs of illness once again. On April 3, 2013, the Hunt’s family’s suspicions were confirmed. Maddy’s cancer had relapsed. This time a harder treatment plan was required, with harsher chemotherapy and more inpatient stays.

Through it all, she and her family kept strong and in September 2015, Maddy finished treatment for the second time. She has been off her treatment and in remission now for 19 months. Maddy is doing well, thriving and living her life to the fullest.

“She’s very outgoing; Very brave. She’s gotten up in front of 400-500 kids and talked to them about her experiences. She isn’t really scared of too much,” said Hunt. “She’s always impressed me as her father and she amazes me every day with her bravery. It makes me very proud.”

On April 14, 2017, Altus Air Force Base was lucky enough to provide this resilient girl with a unique experience. Maddy became a pilot for a day.

The pilot for a day program allows a child with a serious illness and makes them an honorary pilot for that day.

“Seeing her do this makes me feel great. I know that there are some children that unfortunately don’t make it through their battle with cancer,” said Hunt. “I am grateful every day to see her go through journeys and experiences like this.”

Maddy began the day with style, arriving at Altus Air Force Base by riding in on a fire truck. Next, dressed in her very own flight suit, she was sworn in by U.S. Air Force Col. Todd Hohn, 97th Air Mobility Wing Commander and given her very own pilot wings.

She then got to experience what it was like to see through night vision goggles and took a ride in a hanging harness simulator which trains pilots how to safely use their parachute in the event of an aircraft crash. Maddy then moved on to a boom operator simulator, where she got to practice refueling other aircraft using high-tech training technology.

Next, came what Maddy described as her favorite part of her special day. She was front and center to her very own private military working dog demonstration where members of the 97th Security Forces Squadron ran one of their military working dogs through a series of tasks and obstacles.

Maddy then visited the control tower where she overlooked the base, watched planes land and take off from the cat-walk, and listened to the chatter of pilots and air traffic controllers on a headset.

With the day winding down, Maddy paid a visit to the fire department and took a tour of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft as well as a KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft.

“I got to see what the pilots do and it’s pretty awesome. I got to be in a parachute simulator, I got to fly two planes which were pretty cool and when I got here I got this flight suit which is pretty awesome,” said Maddy, “When doing the flight simulator, it was kind of crazy just with all the switches, but I just had to pull the handles and it was pretty easy.”

Maddy said she felt honored being invited to participate in the Pilot for a Day Program and thoroughly enjoyed getting the chance to see what an Airman’s life is like.

“If my friends could see me, they’d probably be jealous,” she said, “I would encourage other girls in the same situation to do stuff like this. Nothing’s holding you back. Just go ahead and do it like Nike says.”

All in all, Jay Hunt said the experience is good for the soul and expressed his thanks for the opportunity.

“It’s definitely an awesome experience,” said Hunt. “We have thoroughly enjoyed just being able to bring Maddy here and see the different things the Air Force trains their personnel on. We just couldn’t be any more grateful for the opportunity that we’ve been granted here today.”