Military Spouse Magazine

DEC 2018

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O U R L I V E S Photo by Samuel King Jr. Love, Loss, and a Way Forward The Story of a Presidential Pilot's Wife By Kimberly Spath, Air Force Spouse ON SATURDAY, MAY 15, 2014, ALI (ALISON) BANHOLZER STOOD ALONE IN THE PARKING LOT OF THE HOSPITAL WHERE AN AMBUL ANCE HAD JUST TAKEN HER HUSBAND, COL. DAVID (DAVE) BANHOLZER. Ali had met Dave on a blind date when she worked at the Spokane Police Department in Washington state. They married in March 1997 and settled into military life, raising two daughters, working, and keeping up a household. Dave's career progressed to his dream job as the Commander of the Presidential Airlift Group 14th Presidential Pilot of the United States in February 2014. A MOMENT Saturday, May 15, 2014, was a typical Saturday. Dave had gone to pick up his oldest daughter from an overnight function at their church. When he returned home, he complained of a pain in his leg and stood to show Ali a tremor in his foot. Suddenly, he grabbed his chest and said that he could not breathe. Ali held him while he slumped to the floor, trying to keep him from hitting his head while he had a grand mal seizure. As chaos ensued, their oldest daughter ran to get the neighbors. Ali listened to the approaching siren from the volunteer fire de- partment over the frantic screams of their youngest daughter. Life as the Banholzers knew it would never be the same. LIVES CHANGED As the waiting room began to fill with concerned friends, the doctor informed Dave and Ali that Dave had a 4 centimeter mass in his front left lobe. They airlifted him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Ali went home to check on her daughters, knowing that at a bare minimum, Dave's flying career was over. He had been the commander of Air Force One for only two months. Being a pilot was the only thing he had ever known and the only thing he ever wanted to do. Ali describes this time; "It is like living in a snow globe. Someone shook the snow globe. All of the pieces are still there, but noth- ing is landing where it used to be. You are living in a fog." They prepped Dave for surgery and as they wheeled him away, Ali whispered into his ear her usual words whenever Dave would leave to fly, "Keep it in the air and keep the rub- ber side down," meaning fly safe and come back to us. As she turned her back, she finally took the time to cry. The doctor confirmed Ali and Dave's worst nightmare, glioblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer in which there is no cure. When Ali asked the doctor what they should do, he responded, "If I were you, I'd retire and start making memories." Dave was very healthy and tolerated radiation and chemo well. He was able to remain in command although not in a flying capacity. Life regained a small sense of nor- malcy until Dave's recurrence in August 2015. Dave endured three more surgeries during his battle against glioblas- toma. He began to lose his ability to speak and his need for full time aid became imminent in November 2015. 20 MILITARYSPOUSE.COM / DECEMBER 2018

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