“This is his journey. Our sunshine. The one who most often finds the positive in everything,” said Lisa Howard, Jackson Forrsberg’s mother. “He takes things at face value and deals. He always has something funny to say most times includes saying things as they are because he sees things that so many people miss.”

Airmen assigned to the 336th Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base hosted Jackson and his family as part of the Pilot for a Day program on June 17.

The Pilot for a Day program supports children with lifelong disabilities or illnesses, providing them a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the life of a U.S. Air Force pilot by accompanying them through various units on base packed with personalized pilot experiences.

“Jackson was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when he was 7 months old and had symptoms from the time he was 2 months old,” Howard said.

Since the diagnoses 13 years ago, Jackson has been in and out of the hospital. In 2019, Jackson began to experience minor changes, and then COVID happened. He was admitted into the hospital in 2020 and diagnosed with mucinous adenocarcinoma stage four, a type of rare, aggressive colon cancer.

“He ended up having a hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) surgery,” Howard said. “The surgery lasted 14 hours, and they found 437 tumors.”

Following his recovery, Jackson started chemo infusions and completed 10 rounds of three-week cycles.

“No one deserves to go through what Jackson is going through,” said Capt. Ronnie Nelson, 336th FS weapon systems operator. “Jackson is an inspiration and a fighter. We hope to make one of his dreams come true.”

At the beginning of the day, Jackson was issued his own flight suit and patches.

“I have my own flight suit,” Jackson said. “This means I am officially a pilot.”

Now that Jackson was properly attired, he departed for a tour of the 336th FS where he got to see the Rocketeers mission up close and personal.

“I got my own locker with my name on it!” exclaimed Jackson. “Also, I got to put on night vision goggles and could see in the dark.”

Not only was it Pilot for a Day but it was also his 13th birthday, which was celebrated with a cookout. He was welcomed into the 336th FS lounge, where he was caught off guard when everyone started singing happy birthday and had cupcakes, cookies and a cake. Jackson got to learn some history about the 336th FS while he ate his food.

After the birthday party, Jackson and his family spent the afternoon touring the fire station before touring an F-15E Strike Eagle.

“We are all privileged to have him here and make him feel part of our team here,” said Sean Quinby, 4th Civil Engineer Squadron fire chief.

After touring the F-15, Jackson and his family were welcomed by Col. Kurt Helphinstine, 4th Fighter Wing commander, where he received his flying wings, a 4th FW coin and a call sign.

“Look at the jet! It’s mine, it has my name on it!” Jackson said.

“This family is a tough family, and we are very grateful to be able to host them on this special day,” Helphinstine said.