Guard makes dream a reality for 9-year-old

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Catharine Schmidt
  • 109th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

On Oct. 6, Jacob Kaminski enlisted in the Army, got promoted to sergeant, crossed over to the Blue as a second lieutenant and piloted an LC-130 Hercules. It's a feat that would take the rest of us years to accomplish; but for 9-year-old Jacob, it was all in a day's work.

Jacob suffers from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and one of his dreams is to be a Soldier for a Day. Thanks to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Starr, and Family Readiness Group coordinator Julie Rutledge that dream became reality. Jacob thought he was going to a routine doctor appointment, but instead he showed up at DMNA (Division of Military and Naval Affairs) as the Army's newest recruit.

"His mother said his jaw hit the ground when (they) pulled up to the front gate here at DMNA," said Sergeant Starr, the TAG's enlisted aide at DMNA in Latham. "He had no idea he was going to get his dream. ... I think it took him a little while to come out of shock and realize what he was experiencing."

Jacob spent the day, in uniform, with the Army checking out military vehicles, receiving his dog tags during an Army mission and got to sit in a black hawk helicopter. His next stop was the 109th Airlift Wing, where a commission, a flight suit and an LC-130 awaited him.

Members of the 109th Airlift Wing put Jacob right to work with his crew, that included Lt. Col. George Alston, aircraft commander; 1st Lieutenants James Nicholson and Bradon Caldwell, co-pilots; Chief Master Sgt. Don Morrell, flight engineer; and Tech. Sgt. Jason Bull, loadmaster.

After he was in his flight suit, Master Sgt. Neil Wood and Senior Airman Eric Canstraro, of Life Support, brought Jacob his mock aircrew ensemble. It was then on to the flight planning, where Jacob even signed the orders for his mission. Then it was off to the pilot briefing room and finally out to the flightline to check out the ski-equipped aircraft he would be piloting.

"Crew Chief, Staff Sgt. Matthew Begin, went above and beyond preparing the aircraft. He truly had the aircraft in award-winning condition," Chief Morrell said. "In addition to loading ATO bottles, he ensured that Jacob's name was listed on the side of the aircraft."

After completing a spot-check, Jacob sat behind the controls of the aircraft and went through the checklist just like every pilot does -- down to flipping the switch to turn on Engine No. 1 and then Engine No. 2.

"Jacob proved to be a very intelligent young man," Chief Morrell said. "Asking questions and calling checklists, he finished his aircraft visit by pointing out fuel dripping out an engine drain mast that normally occurs on normal engine shutdown. He just wanted to make sure everything was OK."

Soon after, Jon Driscoll, Stratton Fire Department captain, picked up Jacob in a base fire truck and brought him over to the Naval Reserve facility across the flightline.

"He made sure that Jacob's time in the crash vehicle was truly memorable," Chief Morrell said. Master Sgt. John Rayome also helped out by providing transportation in a personable professionalism manner as only he can do, the chief said.

It was a busy day for Jacob, and one he had dreamed of for a long time.

"Everywhere we went, the Soldiers and Airmen went above and beyond even my wildest imagination," Sergeant Starr said. "I think it was really humbling to (Jacob) and his family. Their reactions to it all made everyone involved feel really great inside for their part."

All in all, everyone deemed Jacob's day a huge success.

"I cannot count the amount of times I got to see his face light up with the hugest smile I have ever seen," Sergeant Starr said. "The day was a tremendous success, thanks in part to all the Soldiers and Airmen who took it above and beyond what would have been expected.

"As always, members of (the 109th Airlift Wing) gave 200 percent of what would have been considered great," Sergeant Starr said.

According to a DMNA press release, Theresa Petrone, the Campaign Manager from the Upstate New York/Vermont Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, met Sergeant Starr, a marathon runner, at a fundraising run in May.

"In August, she (Petrone) approached me about Jake, who was the Chapter's Boy of the Year, and asked if I would be able to assist in any way to make Jake's dream of being a 'Soldier for a Day' a reality," Starr said. "I immediately presented the idea to the Chief of Staff, and here we are!"

Sergeant Starr was run four marathons in support of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society since 2007, raising more than $10,000 toward research for treatments and to assist families with medical costs.

Jacob was born in 2000, and his battle with cancer began in May of 2004 at only 4 years old. Months later he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and endured three and a half years of chemotherapy, spinal taps and a lot of time in the hospital. He went into remission in August of 2007, but in December of 2008, his leukemia had returned. One week after his ninth birthday, Jacob started chemotherapy once again. You can learn more about Jacob at [redacted]