AN airman has been praised for his devotion to duty and his charity efforts – even though he is suffering from a terminal illness.
Senior Aircraftsman Shahbaz Saleem, 27, a married father-of-two based at RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire, has undergone months of gruelling treatment for his condition – colon cancer.
But despite that he still polished his own shoes and made sure that every detail on his uniform was perfect for the presentation of a Station Commander’s Commendation.
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The moving occasion with family and friends was held at Pendleside Hospice in Burnley, where SAC Saleem is receiving palliative care.
RAF Leeming commander Group Captain David Arthurton presented the commendation in recognition of SAC Saleem’s commitment to the Armed Forces Muslim Association since joining the RAF and his selfless commitment to charity work.
However, his determination to raise awareness of colon and bowel cancers in younger people since his diagnosis in October last year was described as “nothing short of inspirational.”
And his wish to leave a legacy for the staff and volunteers who are caring for him and his family has moved hundreds of people from around the world to donate more than £13,000 to his JustGiving site in only two weeks.
Group Captain Arthurton described SAC Saleem as “an incredible individual.”
“He is no ordinary airman. Through his career he has delivered with professionalism – and what he continues to do now really goes above and beyond.”
Even the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, joined in the praise for SAC Saleem, in a hand-delivered letter.
“I am filled with an enormous sense of pride, mixed with deep sadness, as I write this letter,” he wrote.
“Pride that a fine young airman continues to uphold the very best traditions of the service by his selfless acts at a time, perhaps, when he could reasonably be expected to limit his concerns to himself and his immediate family.
“Your wife and young daughters should be in no doubt about the highest regard that the Royal Air Force holds you.”
Donations can be made at justgiving.com/fundraising/Shahbazsaleem