Salute from above

A Wyoming National Guard C-130 soars the Wyoming skies during a flyover event on Friday to honor health care workers. (U.S. AIR NATIONAL GUARD/Staff Sgt. Jon Alderman)

KEMMERER — During these uncertain times, when we literally cannot “stand together,” eyes were to the sky to watch two big birds stretch their wings across Wyoming.

Scheduled to arrive at 1:05 p.m. over South Lincoln Medical Center (SLMC) in Kemmerer on Friday, May 15, two C-130 cargo planes from the Wyoming National Guard made their appearance for a flyover from the north four minutes early. And in less than 20 seconds, they were out of sight. But for those seconds, under cloud cover and a slight breeze, Wyoming citizens united for a moment of contemplation.

Wyoming National Guard stated in a release prior to the event, “Two Wyoming Air National Guard C-130s will be making their way around Wyoming to #flyover each hospital as a salute to the medical professionals, first responders and essential personnel who have diligently worked to keep our communities safe and health. This is the #WyoGuards way of saying thank you for all your hard work in the fight against the pandemic.”

The Gazette reached out to the Wyoming Air National Guard and received this response: “At this time we are not releasing the crew members’ information. However, the crew was made up mostly of Wyoming residents. … We had an aggressive schedule — we had 35 locations to flyover and only two were diverted due to weather (Jackson, Afton),” according to SSgt Jon Alderman.

Among those masked and unmasked outside SLMC was Scott Meyers, who said, “I think it’s a great tribute.” Another person, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “I think it’s a waste of jet fuel. I think our tax dollars could be used in better ways.”

Lisa Jones, who works in human resources at the hospital, said, “The unity of all of the health workers coming as one to fight COVID-19 is great.”

SLMC Chief Operations Officer Scott Erickson referred to the flyover by saying, “It is certainly a wonderful comment about how we are all trying to lift and serve each other. People we consider heroes give a nod to us as we respond to COVID-19. Regardless of whether we’ve seen it or not, we have to be ready at all times. I really identify the reason we don’t have COVID-19 is, as a community, we’ve tried to respect the CDC, state regulations and regulations from our governor and local health officials. We will have it at some point. But we haven’t been overrun.”

The flyover coincided with National Hospital Week, which was May 10-16. The weeklong event recognized and honors each employee. There were daily activities, and Erickson said, “It was a neat thing from supervisors to recognize employees. We are so proud of our employees and those who care for our patients.”

When asked what the flyover meant to him, Lincoln County Health Officer Chris Krell said, “It’s nice to be able to have hospitals in the state recognized.”

Although not all residents who live among the 100-plus named mountain ranges in Wyoming got advance word of the salute, those being honored were notified. And for those who were fortunate to hear the whistle of the planes as they flew through the fresh air, or who caught a glimpse unexpectedly in the pristine sky, all the better.

The aerial demonstration was part of Operation American Resolve, a nationwide salute to all those supporting the COVID-19 response effort, according to a press release dated May 12, posted on wyomilitary.wyo.gov.

Photos and videos of the event can be seen by searching hashtags #WingsAcrossWY, #AFFlyover or #AirForceSalutes.

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