Wednesday was a very special day for 7 year old Lexi Chamberlain. Lexi was the “pilot for a day” with the 334th Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
Lexi was born in Goldsboro and now lives in Wilmington with her family. She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and received treatment at UNC Children’s Hospital in Chapel Hill. Lexi’s mother Ashley said as of this past fall, Lexi’s cancer is officially in remission. She still receives weekly chemo treatments but will soon go to monthly treatments.
It is fighter squadron tradition that a pilot doesn’t get to pick their call-sign. Lexi’s pilot career was no different. The squadron gave her the call sign “Crusher” since she has been crushing cancer so bravely. Captain Andy Lawler said the program is almost a word-of-mouth application process. Lawler said this was a “very fortunate chain of events” that connected Lexi’s family with leaders on the base. “The whole day has been great. Just the privilege of being able to do this has been the highlight. We always like to show off our jets and this is a great excuse,” said Capt. Lawler. Lawler said that as a combat pilot cancer scares him, but like Lexi’s call-sign, people can crush it.
Lexi received a personal tour around the base and got to experience the mission of the 4th Fighter Wing. She received her own personalized flight suit, unit coins, a t-shirt, and her very own name flash that would be found on an F-15 Strike Eagle. Lexi said she was nervous, but added that lunch with the pilots and members of the 334th Fighter Squadron was her favorite.
Allen Williams, Lexi’s father, said the Fighting Eagles were amazing and very welcoming. He said it was a once in a lifetime experience and a “blessing.”