It was an opportunity of a lifetime as a 9-year-old boy's dream of becoming an Air Force pilot was made a reality.
Over 100 military members at the 177th Fighter Wing in Egg Harbor Township cheered on Jackson Sheppard as ran into the base to become an honorary pilot for the day.”
Jackson’s dad, William Sheppard, told NBC40, "Showing up and seeing over 100 people there to greet him was pretty breathtaking."
Commander of the 177th Fighter Wing, Colonel Kerry Gentry, explained, "We're going to bring Jackson in, we're going to give him a mission brief, and then we're going to teach him a little bit about the Air National Guard. Then we're going to teach him a little bit about what it's like to be a pilot in the United States' Air Force."
Since he was born, Jackson has battled Epilepsy, severe seizures, and Cerebral Palsy. Michele Sheppard, Jackson’s mother, told NBC40, "Jackson does have Epilepsy and he does have seizures occasionally - and he handles them like a real trooper!” Jackson added, “It lasts 5 minutes.”
Because of his struggles, and his ability to overcome them, two of Jackson's teachers in Moorestown nominated him to be "Pilot For A Day." Michele said, "They immediately thought of Jackson. He had some pretty rough years with his Epilepsy.”
After being given his mission brief by Colonel Gentry, Jackson suited up in flight gear and got a behind-the-scenes look at the base.
Major Tom Still said, "It is definitely inspiring to see this guy and how fired up he is. Knowing all of the stuff he's had to go through - to still see his attitude, it's definitely encouraging to see and I'm definitely honored to be a part of it."
And even though it was just for the day, Jackson and his parents say this was something that they will remember forever. "It's a pretty amazing opportunity. Something that is once-in-a-lifetime," said Michele.
Officials at the 177th Fighter Wing say this was their second ever "Pilot For A Day" event, and that they hope to do more events like this one in the future.
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