510th Fighter Squadron

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F-16 pilots shave ‘craniums’ to support late-pilot’s son

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- While most Airmen at the end of March were parting ways with the hair above their upper lip; a dozen pilots from the 510th Fighter Squadron were parting ways with the hair on their head.


The F-16 pilots joined nearly 180 others to show support for a young boy who's battling kidney cancer and has lost his own hair after chemotherapy treatments.

Brayden Mitchell is the son of F-16 pilot, 2nd Lt. Dave Mitchell, who was killed in 2008 in a training exercise at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., when his wife, Kristi, was pregnant with Brayden.

"He was recently diagnosed with this cancer and he's only five years old," said Capt. Alfred Velasquez Jr., 510th Fighter Squadron plans and programs chief. "That on top of the fact that he lost his dad is just heartbreaking. Anything we can do to lift his spirits with his fight is awesome."

Velasquez adopted the idea for his own squadron after word spread about B-52 pilots who shaved their heads at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to support Brayden.

"It's a little thing we can do, and we're doing what we can for Brayden," he continued. "It's not a big deal for us. It's just your hair. He's completely bald, so hopefully seeing us will help him realize that he has a strong moral support."

Velasquez admits he didn't know Dave Mitchell personally; however, a former training partner of Mitchell's was making his regular visit to Aviano AB and had his head shaved to support the cause.

"This is great. It's so valuable just to think of our brothers and giving the ultimate sacrifice," said Maj. Nathan Harrold, U.S. Air Forces in Europe standard and evaluations F-16 evaluator. "Lt. Mitchell was always a happy and uplifting personality."

Velasquez plans to send several photos to Brayden through his Facebook group page, Brayden's Backers. The page allows group members to show support for Brayden through pictures, videos or encouraging words.

Additional information for this story was taken from Airman 1st Class Apryl Hall's article found here, http://www.minot.af.mil/news/story_print.asp?id=123402256.

by Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

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