RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Military aircraft gave healthcare and essential workers a big “thank you” Thursday, for risking their own lives to save those suffering from COVID-19.
Nurses, doctors, firefighters, law enforcement officers and other front-line workers gathered outside hospitals to watch Ventura and Riverside County flyovers, as heroes honored heroes.
At about 2 p.m., a C-17 Globemaster III from March Air Reserve Base, soared right over the roof of Moreno Valley’s Kaiser Permanente, above a crowd of cheering hospital workers, many with tears in their eyes, thankful for the appreciation.
“It’s very emotional,” said Kaiser Admitting Manager Pamilah Grant, fighting back tears. “It’s been a long journey. Our team has been through a lot. Our nurses, doctors, front-line staff have been working so hard and it just feels good that they’re getting to be recognized today.”
A few minutes later was another salute from Team March, as a KC-135 Stratotanker followed the same flight path. Both the cargo and refueling aircraft flew over 17 medical facilities throughout the Inland Empire Thursday.
At about the same time, the Channel Islands Air National Guard gave a similar tribute to first responders, as two C-130J’s, often used to fight fires, flew over medical centers in Ventura County.
If you missed the flyovers, the famed Air Force Thunderbirds are doing their big flyover tomorrow as part of their mission called, “America Strong.” They’ll take off from Nellis Air Force Base in Vegas and fly over San Diego at noon. They buzz through L.A. for about an hour and a half, starting at 1:35 pm in Laguna Beach.
“Our message is to really everybody,” said left-wing pilot, Thunderbird #2 Major Trevor Aldridge in a Zoom interview with FOX 11. “Everybody is sacrificing in these times, whether you have made the decision to stay home to protect others, to protect yourself or you’ve been on the front-line, fighting to save lives and putting your own life at risk. We’re here to say thank you.”
Major Aldridge says the flyover is paid for with money allocated well before the pandemic for airshows that the Thunderbirds are not able to do right now because of the COVID-19 crisis.
“If we weren’t doing these, we would be training in deserts in Nevada with no one watching,” said Major Aldridge. “We decided a better allocation of our resources instead of flying over the desert practicing, is to use those hours and time to support our front-line workers.”
Major Trevor Aldridge will fly with five other F-16 Fighting Falcons in Delta Formation, about three feet from each other, at 500 miles per hour and about 500 feet from the ground, significantly lower than usual. So, if you wave, they may see you!
“We’ve flown right over houses and the kids are in the backyard and the excitement and joy that that brings to them has meant a lot to me,” said Major Aldridge.
It does the same to the front-line workers on the receiving end. “There is a new front that we are fighting with this battle and it is pretty amazing to have the opportunity to say, ‘thank you’ to the people fighting this new fight,” says Major Aldridge.
“I’m proud. I’m proud to be a health care worker,” exclaimed Registered Nurse Tiarra Gomez with her arms in the air, seconds after Thursday’s flyover.
The Thunderbirds are asking people to enjoy the flyover from their own backyard or on TV to avoid the dangerous crowds that gathered in some other big cities. They also ask people to please not fly drones near their flight path that could interfere with the flyover.