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Fire team stands up to childhood leukemia

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Members from the Vandenberg Fire Department pose with their heads shaved here Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011.  A total of 26 firefighters shaved their heads in honor of Ryan Raffel, the 5-year-old nephew of Vandenberg Fire Department firefighter Robert Raffel, who was diagnosed with Leukemia earlier this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Scottie McCord)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Members from the Vandenberg Fire Department pose with their heads shaved here Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011. A total of 26 firefighters shaved their heads in honor of Ryan Raffel, the 5-year-old nephew of Vandenberg Fire Department firefighter Robert Raffel, who was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Scottie McCord)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Emanuel Villegas, a Vandenberg Fire Department rescue truck captain, shaves the head of John Markley, in honor of Ryan Raffel here Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011.  Ryan, the 5-year-old nephew of Vandenberg Fire Department firefighter, Robert Raffel, was diagnosed earlier this year with Leukemia. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Scottie McCord)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Emanuel Villegas, a Vandenberg Fire Department rescue truck captain, shaves the head of John Markley, in honor of Ryan Raffel here Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011. Ryan, the 5-year-old nephew of Vandenberg Fire Department firefighter, Robert Raffel, was diagnosed earlier this year with leukemia. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Scottie McCord)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Vandenberg Engine 2 captain John Markley, gets his head shaved by a Vandenberg fire rescue truck captain, Emanuel Villegas, while members from the Vandenberg Fire Department watch Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011.  Members shaved their heads in honor of Ryan Raffel, the 5-year-old nephew of Vandenberg Fire Department firefighter Robert Raffel, who was diagnosed with Leukemia earlier this year.  (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Scottie McCord)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Vandenberg Engine 2 captain John Markley, gets his head shaved by a Vandenberg fire rescue truck captain, Emanuel Villegas, while members from the Vandenberg Fire Department watch Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011. Members shaved their heads in honor of Ryan Raffel, the 5-year-old nephew of Vandenberg Fire Department firefighter Robert Raffel, who was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Scottie McCord)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Members from the Vandenberg Fire Department pose for a group picture after shaving their heads in honor of Ryan Raffel, the 5-year-old nephew of Vandenberg Fire Department firefighter Robert Raffel, here Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. Ryan was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year. (Courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Members from the Vandenberg Fire Department pose for a group picture after shaving their heads in honor of Ryan Raffel, the 5-year-old nephew of Vandenberg Fire Department firefighter Robert Raffel, here Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. Ryan was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year. (Courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Dan Ardoin, the response division chief at Vandenberg Fire Department shaves his head heads in honor of Ryan Raffel, the 5-year-old nephew of Vandenberg Fire Department firefighter Robert Raffel, here Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. Ryan was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year. (Courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Dan Ardoin, the response division chief at Vandenberg Fire Department shaves his head heads in honor of Ryan Raffel, the 5-year-old nephew of Vandenberg Fire Department firefighter Robert Raffel, here Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. Ryan was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year. (Courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.—Robert Raffel, a Vandenberg Fire Department firefighter gets his head shaved in honor of his nephew, Ryan, here Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011.  Ryan was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year and is currently being treated at Walter Reed National Medical Center, District of Columbia. (Courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.—Robert Raffel, a Vandenberg Fire Department firefighter gets his head shaved in honor of his nephew, Ryan, here Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. Ryan was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year and is currently being treated at Walter Reed National Medical Center, District of Columbia. (Courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Some people shave their head because they are balding, some people do it because it is low cost or looks cool, and then there are the 26 firefighters who shaved their heads for Ryan Raffel.

Ryan Raffel, the 5-year-old nephew of Vandenberg Fire Department firefighter Robert Raffel, was diagnosed earlier this year with leukemia while he and his family were stationed at Rose Barracks, Germany.

Leukemia is a type of cancer that attacks blood-forming cells, bone marrow and the lymphatic system. While rare, leukemia accounts for one of three childhood cancers according to Cancer.org.

After being diagnosed with cancer, Ryan's father, Army Sgt. 1st Class Mike Raffel was transferred to Fort Belvoir, Va., so that Ryan could begin chemotherapy at Walter Reed National Medical Center in the District of Columbia.

To show support for Ryan and his family, Robert asked members from the 30th Space Wing Fire Department to shave their heads Nov. 20 to show Ryan that he was not alone and he had support from coast to coast.

After 10 years of military service, Robert began his civil service career with the fire department here. He has been with the Vandenberg fire team since 2006.

"Through chemo, Ryan lost all of his hair," said Robert. "It can be a little traumatic for someone to not have any hair."

Robert took it upon himself to make a difference for his young nephew.

"After Ryan lost his hair, his dad shaved his head too," said Robert. "I thought my nephew might get a kick out of seeing a bunch of firefighters with their heads shaved just for him."

The team shaved their heads for Ryan in the bay of Fire Station 2.

"It is heartbreaking to hear about a 5 year old who is diagnosed with cancer," said Dan Ardoin, the response division chief at the department. "Shaving our heads was a small sacrifice on our part in honor of this young man who is fighting for his life."

Ryan is due to receive a package of silkscreen T-shirts and pictures from the event from his uncle and the Vandenberg fire team before the holiday season.

"So far he is responding well (to treatment)," said Robert. "Hopefully he continues on the path of recovery."

To follow Ryan during his battle with cancer, like him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Help-the-Raffels/205053479561478?sk=wall