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Airman living his dream

  • Published
  • By Irvin Gourdine
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Many happy memories are devoted to a time with the family, watching a favorite game show, sitting with family and friends, yelling at the T.V. screen at the wrong answers while responding to the questions as if participating. It isn't uncommon to place one's self in the moment to be a contestant, to have the spotlight and know the answer that will win the big bucks. For one Airman the dream of being on his favorite game show became a reality.

Airman 1st Class Christopher Zayas, 43rd Civil Engineer Squadron, was given the opportunity of a lifetime when he was contacted to be a contestant on the game show he'd enjoyed since he was a kid, "Wheel of Fortune." As one of the show's more than 90 million American fans, the Airman was beside himself when he discovered he was to become a contestant.

"I've been watching the show forever," Airman Zayas said. "I always wanted to be a contestant. I knew I could do well if I was given the opportunity." It is not often that dreams such as his come to reality, especially in the manner it did for the Airman. According to the show's Web site, more than 10,000 people audition for the show, and only about 600 are able to compete. This fact alone makes the Airman's story an extraordinary one.

The Airman was personally contacted for the week, as one of only a few servicemembers to receive an invitation to audition for the show's special "Heroes Week." The week's contestants are active duty members of the military and have the chance to win cash, prizes and even a new car. Not only that, the week offers the chance to win a vacation in either Jamaica or Puerto Vallarta.

He was nothing but eager when he received the news. He explained that he rarely is nervous and rather than hesitating about this once in a lifetime chance, he dove right in and began to prep for the show. To prepare, the Airman did what he enjoyed the most - watched the show. "I watched as much 'Wheel of Fortune' as I could just to brush up on my skills."

He also had the help of the 43rd CE members. Airman Zayas' fellow figherfighters, Master Sgt. Andre Sanders, Staff Sgt. Casey Videtto and Airmen 1st Class Brett Carpenter and Martin Young, helped him to prepare each night on duty by hosting mock game shows in the fire department's training room.

Airman Zayas said his knees were shaking a little while in the studio before the taping began. "As soon as the first puzzle got out of the way, though, I was fine," he said, in true fan fashion.

He did take the time to enjoy the scenery of the set, not only remarking on the patriotic decorations, but also on hostess Vanna White's attire. "Before we started taping, Vanna White walked by in a shirt and jeans and came up and greeted us all and wished us luck," Airman Zayas said. "I didn't even know she owned a shirt and jeans," he said, laughing.

Another interesting fact about Vanna, aside from her penchant for extravagant dresses, is that she is listed in the the 1992 "Guinness Book of World Records," as the world's most frequent clapper. The book cites her for clapping more than 28,000 times a season, which averages to about 720 times per show.

Don't try asking this Airman how he did on the show, however. As per an agreement made with the show's producers, his lips are sealed about his results during the taping, but he assures all those who are interested to "tune in at 7:30 p.m. to find out!"

The week began Monday and concludes today. Participants from the Coast Guard, Army, Marine, Navy and Air Force all took part in taping the show Oct. 16. Airman Zayas was one of three Airmen on the show. He competed against a Navy and Marine during the taping, which will air 7:30 tonight on NBC. His results will also be posted on the Web after the final show airs.