Demonstrations wow Make-A-Wish guest

  • Published
  • By Mike Joeseph
  • 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs
George Alvarado, 15, is not a typical teenager. Four months removed from a heart transplant, he won't return to John P. Stevens High School until after Christmas. His ventures away from home are few, and his family eagerly accepted the opportunity for George to be an honored guest at the Lackland AFB AirFest 2010 through the Make-A-Wish Foundation Nov. 5.

"He doesn't get out much, so to come to something like this is a special treat," said Amelia Alvarado, George's mother, as she kept a watchful eye on her son. "He kept asking me (the week before) 'Are we going? Are we going?' He was so excited.

"I think it's a big honor for him. Make-A-Wish helps me give him something I can't. I wanted to give him something he could remember for a very long time," she added.

Even having been a pilot for a day at Lackland AFB in September, if this teen has the chance one day to join the military his mind is already made up. He wants to be a Navy SEAL.

"It's not a dream -- it's an actuality," George replied when told his mother said her son dreamed of being a SEAL. "I'm feeling a lot better and I know I can make it as a SEAL (if I have the chance)."

While George is determined to achieve his goal, he's gathering memories that will last a lifetime. Along with the front-row view, there was personal time with an Air Force Thunderbird pilot after the show. As their special guests proudly sported Thunderbirds memorabilia and listened intently, inspiration was quickly shifting sides.

"It's truly an honor every Friday at the practice shows to perform (for the special guests)," said Maj. Rick Goodman, Thunderbird No. 5, lead solo. "Once we land, we spend 30 to 45 minutes talking to them.

"That's a real honor and humbling. I think maybe that's why we like it so much. To sit down and interact (with them), it inspires us with their strength and dignity. Hopefully we inspire them a little bit with the flying and the show," he added.

After leaving the show, George spent the rest of the day talking about his experience. His mother said it will be a hot topic for a long time.

"That really put a smile on his face for the rest of the day," Ms. Alvarado said about her youngest son's time with Major Goodman. "We talked about it all afternoon. It's an experience we'll never forget."