MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
On April 29, 2022, an EF-3 tornado touched down in Andover, Kansas destroying houses, vehicles and property. Among the people affected was 7-year old Nico and his family who were about to celebrate his 8th birthday before his house was destroyed in the tornado. Since then, Nico’s parents and McConnell have worked together to
organize a surprise party on the base.
“I posted something on Facebook asking if anyone knew a way that we could see the base, because my son loves the Air Force,” said Loree Derose, Nico’s mother. “Nico’s birthday was the day after the tornado, so it was really rough. I was eventually reached out to and I’m so happy that we were able to make this happen.”
Nico toured McConnell with his family on Tuesday, June 7, 2022, where he was able to experience spraying water from a fire truck, and explore the cockpit and boom pod of a KC-135. The day ended at the 349th Air Refueling Squadron to celebrate his birthday, eat cake with Airmen and hear stories from pilots and boom operators about flying.
While touring the KC-135, Nico expressed his interest in fighters and other airframes, having already known about some of the Air Force’s aircraft, he talked about how the F-16 Fighting Falcon was his favorite plane. The pilot he was talking to was impressed with his knowledge and asked Nico if he’d seen the new Top Gun movie.
“Yes I did, it is my favorite movie and it makes me really want to fly planes,” said Nico. “I really hope that I can do it one day.”
She said that Nico has had such an interest in aircraft between the movies and his 22-year old brother being a U.S. Marine, it’s just something that is a part of their family. Nico’s mother explained how she was finally able to see his interests come to life with this experience, and he was counting down the days until this base tour.
“I’m just really appreciative of all of the events and of everyone here for putting this on,” said Loree. “This was just so above and beyond anything that we could’ve even expected, and we are just very grateful we were given this opportunity.”