Community involvement and selfless service are common attributes of service members, and one airman at Luke Air Force Base set the bar high in helping to grant children’s wishes through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Staff Sgt. Janet Kim, 61st Aircraft Maintenance Unit F-35 avionics craftsman, has helped the organization grant 56 wishes for children with critical illnesses since arriving at Luke in 2016.
“I felt like I needed to get out and do more,” Staff Sgt. Kim said. “There’s nothing like being able to see a smile on a kids face, knowing that you’ve granted their one true wish.”
The process of granting wishes can take a few days to several weeks. To help grant a wish, Staff Sgt. Kim first meets with families to discuss the child’s wish before she begins the logistics of bringing their dream to life.
“We have wishes where it’s super simple and before we even get through the door they’re like ‘I want to go to Disneyland and meet Mickey Mouse’ [so] we make that part of their itinerary,” she said. “And then we have wishes where they don’t know what they want and you talk about it with them.”
In December 2020, Staff Sgt. Kim combined her work life and passion of working with children by helping a young boy to be a pilot for the day.
“I have seen how unique some of the wishes are across the nation,” she said. “It was awesome to incorporate what I currently do with what I ultimately want to do. I waited five years for an opportunity like this, and it was amazing to see everyone work together to make Liam’s wish come true.”
As rewarding as volunteering to grant a child’s wish is, it does not come without challenges.
“[The hardest part is] having those hard talks with kids and making sure that you are mentally and emotionally sound to [be there for them],” Staff Sgt. Kim said. “There are kids who truly just wish to not have cancer or to have a kidney, and that’s something [I have to tell them] we simply can’t make happen.”
Her strong desire to volunteer has helped Staff Sgt. Kim develop into the leader she is today.
“[Volunteering] has definitely prepared me to have tough talks,” she said. “I joined [the Air Force] super young, not really knowing how to deal with those kinds of situations. [Volunteering with kids] gave me a leg up on being able to do this with my troops and workplace relationships. It has strengthened me and I feel it has made me a better overall supervisor.”
Tech. Sgt. Christopher Murphy, 61st Aircraft Maintenance Unit specialist training monitor and Staff Sgt. Kim’s supervisor, shared how proud he is of her accomplishments, both inside and outside of work, and the supervisor she has become.
“Through her hard work and perseverance, [Staff Sgt.] Kim has overcome obstacles only to better herself mentally and emotionally to become the well-rounded mentor that she is today,” Tech Sgt. Murphy said. “Her commitment to her job and dedication to lead and educate those around her can be seen through the development and success of her airmen.”
Brig. Gen. Gregory Kreuder, 56th Fighter Wing commander, thanked Staff Sgt. Kim for her selflessness by presenting her with his commander’s coin.
“Staff Sgt. Kim has taken our USAF core value of ‘Service Before Self’ to mean not only her dedication to her work in the military service, but she has also taken it upon herself to prove a priceless service to these kids within our local community,” Brig. Gen. Kreuder said. “She’s exactly the kind of airman we want others to emulate.”
Editor’s note: Senior Airman Caitlin Diaz-Gorsi is with the 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs office at Luke Air Force Base.