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Luke AFB airmen shave heads for fallen pilot's son

Members of the 62nd Fighter Squadron pose with an F-16 at Luke Air Force Base. (Photo: Senior Airman David Owsianka)

PHOENIX -- More than a dozen airmen at Luke Air Force Base -- all with shiny bald heads -- are showing support for the young son of a fallen pilot.

It's been nearly six years since 2nd Lt. David Mitchell died in a pilot training mission at Luke. At the time of the crash, Mitchell's wife was pregnant with a boy.

Earlier this year, now 5-year-old Brayden Mitchell was diagnosed with kidney cancer. That's when airmen from all over the world, including Lt. Col. Shamsher Mann, commander of the 62nd Fighter Squadron at Luke, decided to shave their heads in support of little Brayden and his fallen dad.

"It was kind of a no-brainer," said Mann. "Especially since his father had been in this squadron. So we took my squadron flagship (an F-16 fighter jet), took my name off of it and put Lt. Mitchell's and Brayden's name on it. "

Mann said Brayden's dad may be gone, but he's still like family.

"Pretty close ties I would say. We have a saying in this squadron, 'Once a Spike, always a Spike.'"

More than 400 airmen around the world have shaved their heads for Brayden, who's already had surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments since he was diagnosed in January.

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About the Author


School: Milligan College (Johnson City, TN)

When you started with Bonneville Phoenix: May 2008

Favorite sports memory: Houston Rockets 1995 Championship run/2006 Rose Bowl when Vince Young scored a late touchdown to beat USC for the National Championship

Favorite all-time athlete: Hakeem Olajuwon/Warren Moon (legitimate tie)

Favorite sports movies: Major League/Bull Durham

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