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A toast to brave C-17 pilots

Ferndale educator Mary Kanikeberg's son, Drew, flies a C-17 for the U.S. Air Force. He spends much of his time in the Middle East, taking supplies to troops, delivering equipment, flying wounded personnel to European bases, and returning to the U.S. with soldiers, some living, and some killed in action.
Ferndale educator Mary Kanikeberg's son, Drew, flies a C-17 for the U.S. Air Force. He spends much of his time in the Middle East, taking supplies to troops, delivering equipment, flying wounded personnel to European bases, and returning to the U.S. with soldiers, some living, and some killed in action. FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Drew Kanikeberg, USAF C-17 pilot, married Lucy Brown on Aug. 22.

He comes from a family of pilots ... father an F-4 and F-15 pilot, and his younger stepbrother a B-17 pilot.

During toasts at the wedding, there was a grateful mention of the flying and service these three have done. Then one of his lifelong friends, Brad Voorhees, an Army major recently stationed in Afghanistan, stood to offer a toast.

Brad said fighter pilots and bomber pilots do great service to their country. They matter a great deal in the military scheme of things, but, he said, "I want to talk about Drew flying the C-17.

"In the Army, we are on the ground in the trenches in remote areas. When we are out in the field, getting shot at and running low on water, food or ammunition, there is one pilot we wait for and watch for and hope for. That is the C-17 pilot. There is no other pilot that matters as much to us as him.

"We set up a perimeter for the C-17 pilot prior to his coming in, and plan on a rescue if anything goes wrong," Brad continued. "We are determined to find and rescue that pilot warrior if we need to ... because, to us, he is the bravest and least recognized of all pilots for the dangerous work he does.

"He flies low into remote areas unescorted and with no weapons. He brings us what we need to survive another day. He brings the food, water, and ammunition we need to survive, and when we are running low on supplies, we are watching the skies and waiting for him.

"There is no more welcoming sight than the C-17 pilot bringing in the drop we need to survive. Because of him, we know we can and will live, and one day soon will get home to the families that are waiting for us.

"Lucy," Brad said, "your story is seldom told as well. You are the warrior at the home front. Your job can be lonely and long.

"While he is gone, you keep the family together. You take care of the home. You give your pilot husband a reason to want to safely return.

"He will fly straight and true because you are waiting for him. You will keep him confident that home is taken care of, so he can do his job and take care of us on the ground."

Brad then said, "My toast is to the bravest and truest of pilots. I am honored to have you taking care of our Army men in the field. Because of you, we too can come home safely to our waiting families.

"God bless you. God bless the soldiers who serve, and the brave pilots that serve".

There were few dry eyes at the wedding after that remarkable toast. I am so proud of my son Drew, of Brad, and of all the families who serve or have served and sacrificed for this country.



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