LRS Airmen meet cancer battle head on

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Diana M. Cossaboom
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Normally, when someone is going through a hard time, family is there to support and help them. Though it's not blood that binds them, these brothers are committed to each other with a bond that goes beyond being colleagues.

Airmen assigned to the 20th Logistics Readiness Squadron here consider each other family and when a family member was diagnosed with cancer, they came together to support him in any way they could, even when it meant changing their appearance by shaving their heads.

A steady hum hung in the air as the clippers sheered away hair from each Airman's head. One after another, they willingly jumped into the barber chair with a "chop it off" mind set. At that moment, it was clear that any one of these Airmen would trade places with their wingman so that he would no longer have to fight the battle with cancer.

The LRS Airman was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma and wishes to remain anonymous, however the LRS family continues to provide support for him and his family.

"One of our brothers was diagnosed with cancer, and to support him we decided we would team together and shave our heads when he started his chemotherapy. His hair began to fall out, so we all came together to say 'you're not alone'," said Tech. Sgt. Clyde Rankins, 20th LRS NCO in charge of vehicle dispatch.

On March 5, 13 Airmen from Shaw AFB went to Nelsons Barbershop, Sumter, S.C., to support their LRS wingman by shaving their heads.

"We had the support of the barber shop staff who came in and said 'hey, we'll do this for you and we are going to do it for free'," said Senior Master Sgt. Frank Graziano, 20th LRS deployment in distribution superintendent. "You can't ask for more. This is just a small testament of what the military has to offer and our Air Force is lucky to have these guys. All we do is send prayers to our Airman."

According to the American Cancer Society, soft tissue sarcoma is a type of cancer that develops from the soft tissues of fat, muscle, nerves, fibrous tissues, blood vessels, or deep skin tissues and can be found in any area of the body.

"We always talk about taking care of our people and how our number one priority is taking care of our Airmen," said Graziano. "This is it right here. This is taking care of Airmen. It's all about supporting our guy. He's ours; he's our Airman."

As each Airman took a turn to have his head shaved, they recalled just how loyal their wingman with cancer had been in the past.

"There's been countless times where he's offered his own time," said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Roberts, 20th LRS quality assurance inspector, "even money from his own account to help other people that are struggling and this is something to give back to him. To pay homage to what he's going through, what his family's going through."

While some hadn't experienced the feeling of a shaved head since basic military training, team unity and wingman loyalty hadn't faded.

"A lot of times it takes something like this to bring people together; it should never be like that," said Graziano. "Everybody should be together all of the time, and these guys do it every single day. I wish more people would follow their example."