Cadet Squadron 31 brings smiles to Cadet for a Day

Hannah Marklin, 16, Academy's newest cadet for a day, poses at the tail of a Cessna during her visit to the Academy. Her weekend kicked off with a tour of the 98th Flying Training Squadron and a hanging harness training demo in its indoor training facility followed by an acrobatic glider demonstration and tour of the air traffic contol tower.

Hannah Marklin, 16, Academy's newest cadet for a day, poses at the tail of a Cessna during her visit to the Academy. Her weekend kicked off with a tour of the 98th Flying Training Squadron and a hanging harness training demo in its indoor training facility followed by an acrobatic glider demonstration and tour of the air traffic contol tower.

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- For Hannah Marklin, 16, and the Academy's newest Cadet for a Day, it was a weekend packed with tours, football, aviation, demonstrations and hanging out with some 100 new friends.

Hannah, her parents and friend Evan Simon, visited the Academy Nov. 12 through 14 and were feted by Cadet Squadron 31.

"All the cadets we hung out with were my favorite part," she said of the weekend. "They were all so fantastically nice."

The Parker, Colo., resident, clad in a flight suit, added, "Going up in a Cessna was pretty cool, too."

Hannah is the oldest Colorado Cadet for a Day and suffers from dysautonomia, a nervous system disorder. Cadets have hosted 32 youths to date in collaboration with Colorado's Make-A-Wish Foundation which provides young people facing severe medical challenges the opportunity to experience life as a cadet.

The weekend kicked off with a tour of the 98th Flying Training Squadron and hanging harness demo in its indoor training facility followed by an acrobatic glider demonstration and tour of the air traffic control tower. Hannah was honored by the 94th Flying Training Squadron with her name emblazoned on a glider.

Hannah and Evan took to the air in a Cessna, compliments of the Aero Club, with Hannah partially at the controls.

"I was nervous at first, but it was fun," she said of the flight.

The two friends met through a dysautonomia support group. Evan, 20, was visiting from his home in Toledo, Ohio.

Following Friday's noon meal formation with Hannah in the lead, the family and friend enjoyed a demonstration of prowess and training from the Academy's military working dog "Rocky" with the 10th Security Forces Squadron, a tour of the chapel and simulators and a preview of the "Rat Olympics" in the behavioral sciences department.

Evan and the Marklin family saw the Denver Nuggets clobber the L.A. Lakers Friday evening 105 to 79 in Denver. The Make-A-Wish Foundation has provided the family with season tickets, and Hannah is a die-hard Nuggets fan.

Braving cold and snow, they enjoyed a squadron tailgate party Saturday before Air Force creamed the University of Nevada at Las Vegas in Falcon Stadium.

Cadets in Squadron 31 gave of their time and monetary donations to make Cadet for a Day happen and have added her to their Facebook page as a squadron member.

"Our motto is giving back and making a difference in individual lives," said Cadet 2nd Class Alexander Milhous of Cadet Squadron 31.

Cadet 3rd Class Jacklyn First, another squadron member, said the squadron "has good vibes" toward helping others and wanted to have a positive impact.

Cadet 2nd Class Zoe Kotnick, CS22, conducted the tour at the 98th FTS and recalled visiting air shows as a child where Make-A-Wish children were in the audience.

"I remembered how in awe they were, and it warmed my heart," she said.

Evan, who once served as the bat boy for the Toledo Mud Hens baseball team, also especially enjoyed the camaraderie with the cadets.

"It was nice to meet kids my age and who were very cool," he said. "They treated us just great, and we did everything we possibly could do at the Academy."

Dad Bryan Marklin said Hannah has a severe form of the neurological disorder which requires stringent medical care, but she manages to retain a positive outlook and continue her interest in fashion and make-up.

"She has a natural skill for it and has a very distinct style of her own," he said.

The Marklin parents, who also have an older son and daughter, are deeply grateful to the cadets and Make-A-Wish for the experience.

"It greatly exceeded what we expected," Mr. Marklin said. "I could not come up with words how kind and thoughtful the cadets were."

Mom Marlowe Marklin said Hannah had a wonderful time.

"To see her happy was great," she said. "I haven't seen her smile that much in a long time."

Mrs. Marklin said her hopes for Hannah are the same she has for all her children.

"I just want to see her happy," she said.