Houston Pirrung and Jack Kirkbride, who both have leukemia, got to act as pilots on Friday at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland

By Char Adams
November 21, 2017 10:11 AM
Houston Pirrung (left) and Jack Kirkbride
Tech. Sgt. Arthur Mondale Wright

Two 6-year-old boys with leukemia earned their wings on Friday after being “pilots for a day” at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

Houston Pirrung and Jack Kirkbride, of the Annapolis area, became best friends while undergoing treatment at John Hopkins Hospital. After learning about the boys’ friendship, the Check-6 Foundation — which provides support to ailing children and military veterans — decided to give them a real-life pilot experience.

“The two developed an immediate bond — playing with cars, going on hospital hallway adventures and battling cancer — as teammates,” officials said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

Tech. Sgt. Arthur Mondale Wright

Houston and Jack, both dressed in badge-filled pilot uniforms, arrived at the air base bright and early to tour the base, check out the planes, and they even took over the public address system to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

The duo also got to copilot a Boeing C-40 Clipper alongside seasoned pilots. The boys were given the coveted rank of lieutenant general for the day.

“They’re three-star generals,” Houston’s father, Staff Sgt. Zachary Pirrung, said of the boys. “You can’t get better than that.”

Houston, who was diagnosed in July 2016, is in the maintenance stage of his treatment (doctors are working to ensure that the cancer does not return). And Pirrung said his son’s friendship with Jack has proven to be the perfect therapy for Houston.

“It’s been a blessing for all of us,” he said. “It was nice for them to have another little person going through what they each are going through.”

Jack was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in August 2015, and recently began new medication, according to the statement.

“It’s just one day at a time,” Jack’s father, Matt Kirkbride, said. “That’s really what we’ve gotta do.”

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