BURLINGTON, Vt. - Twenty years ago, the Vermont Air National Guard began honoring children who battle various illnesses and injuries. Two months ago, 8-year-old Jesse Blais was "surprised" to learn he was being honored.
Since he was 2 years old, Jesse, who lives in Chazy, has been making bimonthly visits to the Vermont Children's Hospital.
"He has surgeries every two months on his vocal cords," explained his mother, Jasmine Blais.
Susan Victory, the senior administrative coordinator at VCH, explained staff members at the hospital will nominate a child between the ages of 2 to 17 who face a medical challenge. Those who are nominated receive the Young Heroes Award by VTANG.
"The Child Life staff that works with [Jesse] most of the time when he comes in really recognized him as someone who should be nominated for this," Victory said.
On May 13, Lt. Col. Douglas Fink of the VTANG issued a citation to Jesse which states, "For his remarkable display of outstanding courage and valor while maintaining a battle against his illness. He has demonstrated that wars are not only waged by those in uniform. During this difficult period, he demonstrated great strength, courage, and a love for life in heroic proportions. Jesse's distinctive accomplishments reflected great credit upon himself, his family, and his community."
Jesse also received medal of honor and an officer's coin. He also had the chance to go with his family to the VTANG airbase, where he got to try a flying simulator and gun simulator.
"The airbase was a good experience for him," Jasmine said.
Children at the VCH are nominated for the Young Heroes Award on a regular basis, with the goal to "pay tribute to the courage and dignity of real-life young heroes whose battle against disease or injury might otherwise go unrecognized."