One of the special guests in an IAF cockpit. (IAF) (IAF)
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Over 100 Israeli children fighting cancer took a pause from their battle to experience being an IAF pilot for a day. 

By: IDF Blog and United with Israel Staff

The Israel Air Force (IAF) has recently hosted more than 100 Israeli children diagnosed with cancer who experienced being a combat pilot for a day. The children received their own overalls and badges and had the opportunity to meet and build bonds with combat pilots from the IAF’s F-16I 253rd Squadron.

Captain Y. of the 253 Squadron had the pleasure of meeting with one of the children, Dvir, who visited the Ramon Air Force base.

‘I’m Brave. I Can Climb it on My Own’

“’I’m brave, I can climb it on my own,’” he tells me. “I looked at him and I couldn’t believe it – a seven-year-old boy who is fighting a serious illness. I don’t know where he gets this courage from,” said Captain Y.

“We were outside and started to move toward the runways,” he continued. “On the way, we encountered a deep ditch that we needed to cross, and to my surprise, Dvir was able to get out by himself. This moment showed me that during any difficult and ongoing situation, you have to remain optimistic and believe that you’re capable of overcoming anything.”

The bond between Dvir and Cpt. Y. is only one of the many personal connections that were made during the special day. Although the squadron has hosted this event twice a year for the past six years, this latest one held special significance.

“Especially now that we’re involved in many operational activities, this day is important to us,” emphasized Cpt. Y. “It helps contribute to the children and also gives us additional strength to deal with our complex and ongoing challenges.”

Every One of the Children is Brave and Special

The day began with four buses arriving from various hospitals throughout the country with the children and their families.

“This event was particularly significant because a large number of children arrived directly from the hospital beds,” recalled Chief Warrant Officer (R) Pini, who initiated the event after meeting a sick child with cancer who dreamed of being a soldier.

“When they arrived,” said Cpt. Y., “soldiers were waiting for them at the entrance with pilot overalls similar to ours, but in their size with their names and special patches for them. After the children got dressed and ate a nice breakfast on base, they received a briefing from the squadron commander who talked about the air force and our squadron, and from there everyone went out to watch a training jet.”

“Then it was time for the children to become the pilots,” said Cpt. Y. “We went to the plane’s hangar. The kids put on full flight equipment, sat in the cockpit of the fighter planes and helicopters, and received a detailed explanation.”

“Many children dream of being pilots,” said Cpt. Y. “This is an opportunity for them to feel like pilots for one day.”

As the day went on, the enthusiasm increased and reached a peak when the fire department joined in. They gave a short demonstration, and finally, the day ended with a performance by the Air Force Band.

“This event is meant to show the children that people are thinking about them,” concluded Captain Y. “And most importantly, the personal connections created remind each and every one of the children how brave and special he/she is.”