My name is Tyrell Rhodes I am 17 years old. I have lived on Air Force bases all of my life, where hearing the roar of the engines and seeing planes fly is an everyday occurrence. I’ve been mesmerized by planes since I was a toddler. I remember lying on my trampoline, watching planes fly by for hours, saying to myself “Wow, that’s what I want to do.” Every year we attend the local air show and I’ve never gotten tired of seeing the precise formations of the Thunderbirds, or ducking as the heritage flight screamed by me. At a young age, I knew I was born to fly! Or was I?
At the age of two I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. I wore braces and used a walker. One day, I saw the movie Forrest Gump which inspired me. I watched the movie many times and wanted to be like Forrest. Like him, I would run out of my braces and go on to do great things. With the bar set high, I was determined to one day soar above the clouds, like the jets I saw from my own backyard.
My biggest achievement dealing with aviation was being selected by Southwest Airlines as the central region winner for the 3rd annual continuing the legacy essay contest. I won a trip to Dallas Love Field where I got to tour the control tower, pilot training facility, maintenance facility and operate their flight simulator. The most rewarding part of my trip was meeting 2 original Tuskegee Airmen. Listening to their stories encouraged me to try harder and to never let others discourage me. Personal achievements of mine include, being the youngest aviator at the Aero Club and being nominated for Military Child of the year.
My diagnosis, unfortunately will not allow me to join the military and become a fighter pilot as I hoped for, but I’m still pursing my dream of becoming a pilot. Now, after 15 years, five leg surgeries, countless hours of physical therapy, and continuous encouragement from family, friends, and doctors, I am living my dream. I am currently a student at the Scott Air Force Base Aero Club; I’ve completed my first aviation class at South West Illinois College, logged about 15 hours in a Cessna 152, and I will be soloing soon. I guess I was born to fly after all!