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23rd BS supports 5-year-old with cancer
Capt. Michael DeVita, 23rd Bomb Squadron B-52H Stratofortress instructor pilot gets his head shaved at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Feb. 21, 2014. DeVita and 16 members of the 23rd BS shaved their heads in support of a 5-year-old cancer patient. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld)
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23rd BS supports 5-year-old with cancer

Posted 3/4/2014   Updated 3/4/2014 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Apryl Hall
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs

3/4/2014 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Capt. Michael DeVita, 23rd Bomb Squadron B-52 instructor pilot, and 16 other members of his squadron shaved all of the hair off their heads to support a young boy fighting cancer, Feb. 21.

It was back in 2008 when DeVita received the devastating phone call that a good friend from pilot training had been killed in an F-16 fighter jet accident at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.

Devita could not believe his ears as 2nd Lt. Dave Mitchell's wife, Kristi, explained that her husband had not ejected in time and had crashed with the jet. At the time of the accident, Kristi was pregnant.

"It was really hard," DeVita said.

Five years down the road, DeVita received more devastating news concerning the Mitchell family. Brayden, the son Lieutenant Mitchell was never able to meet, had been diagnosed with a stage three Wilms tumor, a form of kidney cancer.

Upon undergoing recent chemotherapy treatments, Brayden began losing his hair and his spirits, DeVita said. Due to Brayden's love for airplanes, Kristi reached out to his father's pilot friends for help.

Capt. Corey Preston, a mutual friend of DeVita and Mitchell's from pilot training who is currently deployed, came up with the idea to have different squadrons throughout the Air Force shave their heads in support of Brayden. They would then take a group photo in front of their aircrafts to send to the 5-year-old. Not only would Brayden love receiving all the photos of different Air Force airplanes, but it would also show him that it does not matter whether or not a person has hair, DeVita said.

"It's just an easy thing that we can do to support him," DeVita said. "I was more than willing to do it, and pretty much all the guys in our squadron were too. I'm hoping we can pay it forward and have other people I went to pilot training with that fly other airplanes all do this."

With clean-shaven heads, DeVita and the other 23rd BS Airmen braved the frigid winter temperatures and posed for a photo in front of a B-52, which they will send to Brayden to prove that having hair is insignificant, DeVita said.

"It's just to keep his spirits up and keep him strong so he can fight through the chemo and move on past this," DeVita said. "Hair is a small thing; fighting cancer is a tough thing."

On Feb. 26, Brayden was able to watch Preston alongside 150 other deployed Airmen shave their heads all the way from Afghanistan. The boy was overwhelmed with happiness as he watched via video chat, said his mother Kristi.

"He thinks it is so cool that all these guys are doing this for him," Kristi said. "The other day he said, 'So many people care about me!' It just makes him feel really special."

In hopes the trend will continue in order to keep a constant flow of support for Brayden, DeVita will do whatever he can to ensure the boy's morale stays up, he said.

"What I do every day is easy compared to what Brayden is putting up with," said DeVita. "Hopefully when this is all passed him, he'll grow up and be an F-16 pilot just like his dad and then he can maybe help someone else out one day."

To view the photo slideshow click HERE.

4/13/2014 7:55:41 PM ET
I just got my head shaved today to support the lil one. I was former USMC and it impressed me that so many airmen would do such for a lil one to show support. this proves to me after multiple time of good stories about military ppl helping out that the us military is great and will go to any effort to help out. I praise all of our service members for helping anyone in any way
craig bradney, akronoh
3/8/2014 5:41:46 PM ET
What a great show of support Keep fighting Brayden
Cindy Dorfner, Phoenix AZ
3/5/2014 11:59:18 AM ET
Faith in Humanity restored. Get better soon Brayden
Juan Rios, Wisconsin
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