MacAidan "Mac" Gallegos just wanted to feel close to his father. Every year since Army Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos was killed in Afghanistan in 2009, Mac and his mother have done something special on Justin's birthday. One year, they baked some cupcakes; another year, they had a party. Lately, Mac's mother Amanda Marr says they have turned their attention to "Acts of Service" to honor Justin's memory.
This year, Mac decided to write his father a letter. Mac was only 5 when his father died, and now, at 9 years old, he is full of questions. He scrawled them out on red construction paper in honor of Justin's favorite color:
"Dear Dad, I have some questions. What is it like in a tank? What is like to be a scout? How old are you now? How old were you when you died? What is your favorite food? What is your favorite animal? What is your favorite hobby? What is your favorite activity? What is it like in heaven? Have you seen what I have accomplished? From, your son."
Mac and his mother talked about how they should send the letter. How could they reach his father? How could they get close to heaven?
Then it dawned on them.
They could fly.
Marr posted a request on Facebook for help sending the letter into the sky. She was contacted by Kyle Moxley from HAVE Alaska. Helping American Veterans Experience Alaska was started by Moxley and his wife to help introduce veterans to traditionally Alaskan activities like hunting and fishing. Moxley told Mac and his mother he would find them a pilot.
Last week, Mac handed his letter over to Lt. Col. Brian Baldwin, a Reserve F-22 pilot who offered to be in charge of Mac's mission. Before taking off, Baldwin showed Mac around his aircraft. "It is an honor to fly with Mac's letter," Baldwin told the official website of the U.S. Air Force. "His father gave the greatest sacrifice to our country, and I am humbled to be able to do something for him and his family."
On January 24, Justin Gallegos' birthday, Mac's letter made its flight. For the little boy, it isn't the end -- Mac told KTUU he plans to write his father more letters every year.
"I wanted to write a letter because I wanted to know more about my dad," Mac said. "And to show that I didn't forget him and to show that I also love him."