A terminally ill RAF serviceman has received a Station Commander’s Commendation for his fundraising efforts, which have seen him raise over £13,000 in three weeks.
Shahbaz Saleem (27), from Reedley, was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer last year and is currently receiving palliative care at Pendleside Hospice, where he was proud to receive the honour from RAF Leeming Station Commander, Group Captain David Arthurton.
Dressed in uniform, Senior Aircraftman Saleem polished his own shoes to make sure his uniform was perfect at a moving occasion with family and friends held at the hospice, which Shahbaz (known affectionately as ‘Shabz’) has described as ‘heaven on Earth’.
“It feels really good to be in uniform again,” said the father-of-two. “I’m humbled by everyone here. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the staff. I’m grateful to have such a lovely team.”
Having worked tirelessly to represent the RAF in a positive manner, especially in the Muslim community, Shabz was being recognised for his commitment to the Armed Forces Muslim Association since joining the RAF nine years ago as an 18-year-old.
Group Captain Arthurton said: “Shahbaz is no ordinary airman. Through his career he has delivered with professionalism and what he continues to do goes above and beyond.”
Seeking to raise awareness of bowel cancer, Shabz’s story has moved hundreds to donate to his admirable cause, with his brother Shahzad saying: “I’m amazingly proud of what he’s achieved and continues to achieve every day.
“Shahbaz may be physically weaker but mentally, he’s stronger than ever. It’s as if he has been gifted with some power [to] go the extra mile.
“He doesn’t want anyone else to feel what he’s feeling, hence why he has the drive to raise awareness: he is always thinking about other people,” continued Shahzad.
In a letter to Shabz, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, said: “Your wife and young daughters should be in no doubt about the highest regard that the Royal Air Force holds you, and I remind them that they are part of two families - one at home, and one with a very extensive reach - the Royal Air Force.”
Donations to Shabz’s JustGiving page can be made at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Shahbazsaleem.