Monday, May 28, 2007

Perspective: Patient’s love of jets bolsters young vet

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- At 23, Jay Engebretson thought he had seen and lived through just about everything a young man his age could.

He had loaded weapons onto multimillion dollar F-16 fighter jets. He had worked among the sick and the wounded in an Iraqi emergency room.

Engebretson had seen the face of war. But it was the face of a young man dying of leukemia back in Sioux Falls that ultimately convinced him he was mistaken.

For what he saw in 24-year-old Derrick Roy of Boyd, Minn., is that “I haven’t been through anything,” Engebretson says. “I saw that what he’s done is remarkable.”

Theirs is a powerful, poignant tale of friendship and lessons learned that began on a cancer unit at Avera McKennan Hospital and culminated with a dream coming true at the South Dakota Air National Guard base in March.

Engebretson, a senior airman in the Guard, had just returned from a seven-month stint in the Middle East and was starting a new job as a patient care technician at Avera McKennan when the two first met.

As part of his work, Engebretson stops by patients’ rooms, says “hello” and sees whether they need anything — even if it’s just a little company. One of the first rooms he walked into was Roy’s.

“He was watching a show on TV about fighter jets,” Engebretson recalls. “I sat there a while and told him how I work on jets. He seemed to know more about it than I did. He just had a passion for it.”

Their connection was instantaneous. In time, Engebretson came to know more about his new friend than just his interest in military planes.

Read the rest at Air Force Times