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Pat Lynch has a love for flying that began at a very early age. It seems only fitting that after graduating high school, he would spend the next three years dangling from the open door of a UH1 helicopter in the Vietnam War.
Even more fitting is that after his time in the military, Pat decided to go to school to become an airline pilot. In 1985 he became a captain with America West airlines, which later became US Airways in 2003.
A few years later, Pat wanted to combine his passion for flying with his passion for his country. In 1988, he formed Operation Freedom Bird, a non-profit organization that provides a unique healing journey to Arizona's combat veterans. Named after the Freedom Bird flights that transported soldiers back to the United States after their tour of duty in a war zone, Pat formed this organization as a way to reach out to fellow Vietnam Veterans and visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC.
The program was successful beyond original expectations and continues to be today. Every year, approximately 50 veterans are selected by Arizona Vet Center counselors and on Veterans Day, Southwest Airlines flies the group to DC for a four-day healing journey to visit the war memorials. Through sharing the experiences and confronting there feeling, these warriors could pay tribute to their fallen comrades and seek closure to their own emotional war wounds.
But while Pat was busy helping his fellow veterans, he once again was faced with something that reminded him of his days in the military. In 2005, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. “It was the first time since serving in Vietnam that I experienced fear like that again,” Pat said. “I quickly remembered what it was like to feel so mortal.”
After researching his treatment options, Pat opted for Novalis Shaped Beam Radiotherapy. “I walked into the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center to talk with someone about Novalis and met radiation oncologist Nicholas Flores, MD,” he recalled. “After spending only an hour with him, he and the entire staff completely eased my fears and made me feel comfortable. I signed up to begin my treatment that very same day.”
Pat spent the next nine weeks undergoing treatment using the Novalis system. His treatments were about 15 – 20 minutes per session, five days a week. “Everyone I encountered during my sessions was wonderful. When you’re there that often, they really become like a family.”
Since completing his treatment, Pat has been cancer free and back to enjoying the things he loves – including riding his Harley, taking his ’67 mustang to local car shows, spending time with his wife, flying and of course, giving back to his fellow veterans.
“I have experienced a lot of things in my life,” he says. “But I can honestly say that if I had to go through prostate cancer again, I would do everything exactly the same.”