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Fri, Apr 22, 2005

5-Year-Old Cancer Survivor Plays USAF Pilot For A Day

The newest member of Seymour Johnson AFB's 334th Fighter Squadron cannot even reach the rudder pedals in an F-15E Strike Eagle, but that does not keep Evan “Big E” Moriarty from being one of the squadron’s Fightin’ Eagles.

The 5-year-old Fayetteville, N.C., native recently had a cancerous tumor the size of a football successfully removed. He and his family visited the base April 15.

“He loves jets -- his favorite movie is ‘Top Gun,’” said Evan’s mother, Shana Moriarty. “He was so excited to come and spend the day with everyone here.”

Besides his mom, Evan’s two older brothers and two of his grandparents came along. Evan’s dad is in the Army and currently deployed. Their visit here was coordinated between the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the base’s junior enlisted group, Enlisted Airmen Gaining Leadership Experience and Skills.

“We’d been working on getting Evan here for a few months and everyone on base really pulled together to make it happen,” said Airman 1st Class Natasha Sloan, the enlisted group’s president. “He’s a special little guy and really is like a little brother to me now.”

Maj. Mark Slocum, of the 334th FS, escorted Evan and his family around base. The visit started in the Eagles’ lounge, where Col. Mike Holmes, 4th Fighter Wing commander, presented Evan with a flight suit, jacket and helmet bag -- all covered in various patches from around the base.

After changing into his new threads, it was over to wing life support where Staff Sgt. Brent Knight taught him all about parachute safety.

From there, Major Slocum took Evan and his family to the flightline, where maintainers had a fully loaded Strike Eagle waiting for them. Evan’s name and call sign were painted on the side.

After seeing the jets, Evan and his family visited the 916th Air Refueling Wing where they saw a KC-135 Stratotanker up close.

“He really loved seeing the refueler and laying down in the back,” Mrs. Moriarty said.

After a catered lunch at the 334th FS with several of his fellow Eagles, Evan and his family got a whirlwind tour of the base, including stops at the fire department, air traffic control tower, military working dogs section and Airman leadership school.

While at ALS, Evan participated in a retreat ceremony, and Tech. Sgt. Patrick Seiler presented him with the flag they flew that day.

With the day almost done, the group stopped back at the 334th FS where they received gifts from several people around base -- including a model of an F-15E, coins from various squadrons, and autographed pictures of Tom Cruise in his “Top Gun” suit and one from President George W. Bush.

“It’s so fantastic to see so many people giving so selflessly to people they’ve never met before today,” Mrs. Moriarty said. “This was truly an experience I won’t forget. Everyone here has shown Evan a level of compassion I’ve never seen before.” [ANN Salutes Senior Airman J.G. Buzanowski, 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs]

FMI: www.af.mil

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