U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --
Ryleigh Messmer is a curious, rambunctious eight-year-old living with cystic fibrosis. The Air Force Academy, through a partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, hosted her and her family for a day of fun and learning Oct. 26.
“You want to live each day to its fullest, to remain positive, and we’re thrilled to be here,” said Tricia Messmer, Ryleigh’s mother. “We’ve really enjoyed the cadets’ excitement and creativity, and I love that they can get a better idea of the culture here and be a part of the squadron.”
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that affects several organs. Ryleigh has daily airway clearance treatments and takes enzymes to help her process fat. The family does their best to enable her to lead a normal childhood. She attends a local public school, plays outside, and hangs out with her friends.
“She’s just excited and thankful to be here,” Tricia said. Tricia said her brother-in-law graduated from the Academy, and as natives of Colorado Springs, the Academy had long been in the backdrop of their lives. This was a welcomed opportunity to learn more about the mission and the cadets while celebrating Ryleigh.
Ryleigh and her family began their Academy time at the airfield, where she was surprised with a cadet-piloted flight as her family looked on from the control tower. Then the Messmers toured the fire station and participated in a military working dog demonstration. Ryleigh marched at the head of the cadet’s noon meal formation and later joined the cadets in a game of princess volleyball.
“We hope Ryleigh and her family were able to take away an awesome memory that she'll never forget,” said Cadet 2nd Class John Dargle, one of the event organizers.
Dargle said he was particularly moved by Ryleigh’s reception from the other Academy cadets as she led the lunch formation.
“Squadron 40, along with the Cadet Wing as a whole, were so excited to have Ryleigh here. We hope Ryleigh and her family come away with a better understanding of the military and our commitment to service,” he said.