Senior Airman David Owsianka
Airmen from the 62nd Fighter Squadron recently shaved their heads to support a deceased officer’s son who is battling with cancer.
Second Lt. Dave Mitchell, former 62nd FS pilot, lost his life during a training mission in 2008 at Luke Air Force Base. Five years later, his son Brayden was diagnosed with a stage three Wilms tumor, a cancer of the kidneys.
Kristi Mitchell, Brayden’s mom, reached out to her husband’s friends asking them to help lift her son’s spirits after he began chemotherapy treatment. They came up with the idea of asking Airmen in squadrons throughout the Air Force to shave their heads and take photos in front of a squadron aircraft to send to Brayden.
Here at Luke, everybody in the 62nd FS and 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit got involved.
“It feels great to support a 62nd family member,” said Capt. Nicholas Rallo, 62nd FS instructor pilot. “It’s a good example that even in passing, once you’re a member of this family, you and your family will always be part of it.”
The 62nd AMU began by painting the names of Brayden and his father on an F-16’s tail flash. The pilots of the 62nd FS then shaved their heads and posed for a group photo in front of the aircraft.
“Brayden, who loves airplanes, was ecstatic to see his name on the side of an F-16 with all of our 62nd pilots’ shaved nuggets,” Rallo said.
Brayden and his mother Kristi are delighted with all the photos they’ve been receiving.
“Brayden loves seeing all the photos of everyone shaving their heads for him,” Kristi said. “At the hospital where Brayden is being treated, he was asked to draw a picture of what makes him happy. His response was, ‘It makes me happy that all of the Air Force people shaved their heads for me.’”
Capt. Michael DeVita, 23rd Bomb Squadron B-52 instructor pilot, and 16 other members of his squadron at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., recently shaved their heads to support the young boy’s fight against cancer.
“It’s just to keep his spirits up and keep him strong so he can fight through the chemo and move past this,” DeVita said. “Hair is a small thing; fighting cancer is a tough thing.”
On Feb. 26, Brayden was able to watch 150 other deployed Airmen shave their heads all the way from Afghanistan. The boy was overwhelmed with happiness as he watched via video chat, said his mother.
“We just want to thank everyone who has been a part of the ‘Go Bald for Brayden,’” Kristi said. “The support from the Air Force has been amazing. Though we lost Dave six years ago, the support from our Air Force friends has never wavered, and we are grateful to be a part of the Air Force family.”
Kristi believes when Brayden gets older he will truly understand how big a deal this really has been.
“He has touched so many people in such a short amount of time,” Kristi said. “We are so humbled and blessed to know such amazing people.”