Face of Defense: Cancer Can't Stop Man's Dream of Air Force Service
By 1st Lt. Lisa Spilinek, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass., Dec. 11, 2007 Kyle Causey fulfilled a lifelong dream Nov. 20 when he left Massachusetts for Texas to attend Air Force Basic Military Training. It took him more than six years, and he had to defeat cancer to reach this milestone.
The former Hanscom Air Force Base pool lifeguard had always dreamed of following his father's example by serving in the armed forces. His father, John Causey, a former Army soldier, now works at Hanscom as a contractor for 66th Medical Support Squadron.
Now an airman basic at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Kyle y said his father encouraged him consider the Air Force because of the high quality of life the service offers members.
He is "the biggest Air Force advocate there is," Causey said of his father.
During his senior year in high school, everything seemed to be all systems go for Causey. He met with an Air Force recruiter and was set to leave for basic training shortly after graduation. Then a week before his departure date, he learned he had been permanently disqualified from all military service.
Two years earlier, Causey had had a tumor removed from his abdomen. The tumor turned out to be cancerous, and Causey underwent another surgery so doctors could ensure they had removed the cancer entirely.
Despite the surgery's complete success, he was disqualified from the service and lifestyle he had always dreamed about.
"That pretty much crushed those dreams," Causey said.
He changed plans and enrolled in the criminal justice program at Fitchburg Stage College. "I decided that since I couldn't do what I had always hoped to do, to go to college," he said.
His dreams of serving in the military, however, persisted. While attending college, he learned that he could apply for a waiver to enter the service since he had been cancer-ree for more than four years.
Applications for waivers required documentation that he had no reoccurrence of cancer and an OK by the Air Force surgeon general. After getting approval to join, he received a call with the news that he would be allowed to serve in the Air Force at last. "That was a great phone call," he said of learning from his recruiter that his waiver had been accepted in January.
He has since been on delayed-entry status for his chosen career field, air traffic control.
Causey said he has had a taste of Air Force camaraderie by working at Hanscom for the past five years and by playing intramural sports. He has been an "asset to the base pool," said Stephanie Herlihy, the 66th Services Squadron aquatics director. Causey saved two lives while on lifeguard duty at the pool.
"He was always reliable and someone for the staff to look up to," she said. "Kyle always went above and beyond, increasingly taking on additional responsibility. It is a great loss to the Hanscom community and a tremendous gain to the Air Force."
Causey said that joining the military family, as he has wanted to do for so long, will be very special to him. "That first day I get my uniform issued is going to be touching for me," he said.
Though his journey to becoming an airman has spanned years, Causey said he felt there was a reason for it.
"I feel maybe the reason why I was (disqualified) in the first place was so I could get a college education," he said. "I was the first person in my family to go to college. After that was completed, I found out that I could still make this dream come true. I am very thankful for everything that has happened."
One goal Causey said he hopes to attain one day is to become an Air Force officer, but added that he will be happy to serve regardless of his rank.
"As long as you stay strong as a person, everything that you want to come true will come true," he said. "As much as everybody says it and people don't like hearing it, everything does happen for a reason."
(Air Force 1st Lt. Lisa Spilinek is assigned to 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs.)