Meridian Star

Local News

June 15, 2014

Boy pilot (for a day) soars past adversity

MERIDIAN —     Jake Craig, 8, has dreamed of becoming an pilot. The young boy, who was diagnosed with leukemia as a toddler, had his dream come true Friday when he was made an "Aviator for a Day" at Naval Air Station Meridian.

    Training Air Wing One partnered with Batson Children's Hospital at the University of Mississippi to make it happen.

    Jake and his family were treated a tour of the base hangar, simulator, control tower and fire department. Then, Jake was presented his very own Wings of Gold, the symbol reserved for those who have earned the designation of naval aviator.

    Jake said he loved every part of the event and hopes to one day fly planes for the U.S. Navy.

    Lt. Commander Clinton Watt of NAS Meridian said the "Aviator for a Day" program is important to him because he too faced health issues when he was young.

    "I had visitors ranging from pro football players to military pilots," Watt said. "I have always kind of thought to myself whenever I could be in a position to give back what I received when I was younger, I would. When I was finally in that position I kept that promise. Thankfully I had a command and plenty of people that supported it."

    Jake is the second participant in "Aviator for a Day" since the program started in April this year. He celebrated his fifth year being cancer free in February.

    His battle with leukemia was not an easy one.

    "Jake started his battle with leukemia when he was fifteen months old," his father, Jay Craig, said. "The journey has been one of the worst, rockiest road of my life. There was a lot of things he couldn't do, like being around other children and even the slightest thing like catching a cold could have landed him back in the hospital. Getting Jake out to do things like this and seeing him playing sports now is absolutely amazing."

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