36th RQS helps leukemia patient live in the Now

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mackenzie Mendez
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Jimmy “LJ” Now was just another two-year-old boy before he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. He played outside, spent time with his family and became fascinated with planes and helicopters after receiving a military soldiers toy kit for Christmas.

Since then, LJ has been mesmerized by the idea of one day becoming a helicopter pilot. On Sept. 7, the 36th Rescue Squadron made LJ’s dream a reality. With dozens of Airmen watching, LJ put on his personalized helmet, his tiny green flight suit and climbed into a UH-1N Huey for the first time.

After visiting Disneyland and going on a family camping trip, being able to step foot into a real helicopter was the last dream on what his mother calls “LJ’s bucket list.”

“It’s amazing to see the community come together in a time of need,” said Samantha Now, LJ’s mother. “I didn’t even think this was possible and the Air Force made it happen. They totally made dreams come true.”

During LJ’s visit, Airmen from the 36th RQS pulled out all the stops, providing LJ with a flight suit with patches and his pilot wings, a personalized helmet and various other gifts to commemorate his time as a Honorary UH-1N Huey pilot.

Following military tradition, the 36th also provided LJ with a call sign, painting his name and “Blade 36” on the door of the helicopter. The 36th also put LJ’s “permanent mark” on the squadron, adding his green painted footprints to the collection that covers the squadron ceiling.

“We were able to bring LJ out to be a pilot for a day, bring him into our fold and provide him with an experience he will remember for the rest of his life,” said Lt. Col. Chad Kohout, 36th RQS commander. “LJ is a great kid, I’m happy to have met him and I know this is something I am going to remember for the rest of my life too. I’m honored to have been a part of this event and fulfill a dream of his.”

LJ has been battling a rare mutation of cancer since he was two years old, visiting teams of doctors in Spokane and living in and out of Seattle hospitals for months at a time. According to LJ’s mom, the cancer attacks his blood and bone marrow and is a mutation that doctors aren’t quite sure how to treat.

“With a five percent survival rate, we are doing everything we can to keep him here with us,” Samantha said. “Experiences like this make everything we are going through disappear. He’s able to be a kid and not have to worry about being in a hospital or going through treatments. It’s nice as a mom to see your child being normal.”