Flying West

September 20, 2018 | 4:21 am

Updated September 20, 2018 | 6:51 am

Braden West prepares to take off in a T-34 military trainer. | Photo by Owensboro Times

On Tuesday, Sept. 18, Braden West received a memorable surprise. It wasn’t a special occasion or even Braden’s birthday. It was just a chance for him to do something he loved to do, fly.

Braden’s buddy, Stuart Snow, who shares Braden’s loves of flying, arranged for him to go up in a T-34 military trainer.

“Braden just loves the old warbird airplanes,” Snow said. “It’s special for a lot of people, but it’s extremely special for him.”

Born with Pfeiffer Syndrome Type 2, a rare genetic disorder that occurs in approximately 1 in 100,000 live births, Braden celebrates every day.

Braden’s mom, Cheri, and dad, Chuck, thank God daily that the child they brought home at one-month-old so he could die surrounded by friends and family is now 16 years old.

“It is a huge deal (that he’s 16 years old),” said Cheri West. “His life expectancy was 16 months old.”

Judging by the smile on Braden’s face as he did the pre-flight checks and strapped on his parachute (for precaution), you would never see him as anything other than an excited teenage boy ready to take off in a really cool airplane.

Like a scene straight out of Top Gun, Braden, who works out daily, made sure to take time to flex and “show off his guns” before putting on a pair of aviator sunglasses and climbing up into the back seat.

Around the age of 11, Braden learned how to fly remote control planes with Snow after church. Since then, Braden’s love for flying has grown, and Stuart’s passion has been renewed.

“When I was getting my pilot’s license, he was my biggest cheerleader,” Snow said. “ He would see me in church and hit me on my hind end and say, ‘You got your pilot’s license yet?’”

Cheri was excited to surprise Braden with this special flight but was a little nervous about how he might react.

“Stuart gave Braden his first flight up. He’s never flown with anyone other than Stuart,” Cheri said. “But, it’s a special kind of plane.”

Braden, who has endured almost 30 surgeries in his 16 short years, may be looking at another one in the coming months. He is not looking forward to the possibility, but you wouldn’t know that by being around him.

“He brings sunshine to the rainiest days,” Snow said. “He’s gotten a lot of people through the fear of talking to people that look different. You can’t do anything but mentally love him.”

When Braden landed, he was all smiles and waves and talked about what an awesome experience he had. You could just see the pure joy on his face after doing something he truly loved.

“He’s taught a lot of people how to love,” said Snow. “He’s a pretty amazing guy.

September 20, 2018 | 4:21 am

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