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SC National Guard F-16s fly over hospitals to show support for health care workers

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. — F-16 fighter jets flew over all 66 major hospitals in South Carolina Monday to show support for healthcare workers.

Officials said the flyover is to salute those at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic and to boost morale in the state.

The tribute lasted mere seconds, but left an impression on the crowd outside MUSC-Health hospital in Lancaster.

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Beth Ghent was watching with her children in the hospital parking lot.

“These people need to be honored. They’re putting their lives on the line for ours, as they do every day, but even more so now,” she said.

F-16s of the 169th Fighter Wing from Mcentire Air National Guard base flew over every hospital in the state in about an hour. They were saluting doctors, nurses, ems workers and those on the front lines fighting COVID-19.

Commander of the 169th Fighter Wing, Col. Akshai Gandhi, said this is their way of saying “thank you” to frontline “heroes” working during the pandemic.

“It’s something to bring us all together, to let people know that we will get through this as a group, as a unit, as a family,” Greg Brasington with Lancaster County EMS said.

The atmosphere outside the hospital was like a Sunday picnic as people waiting for the flyover.

Families could be seen tailgating and sitting on blankets in the noon day sun.

First responders were standing apart as they watched, to keep social distancing, but still enjoyed the show.

Iwan Clontz and his family were watching too. He’s retired from the North Carolina Air National Guard, and they drove down from Charlotte and Monroe.

“I wanted to see the South Carolina boys pay tribute to these people,” he said.

The F-16s appeared suddenly from the south after a flyover in Rock Hill at Piedmont Medical Center, and MUSC-Health in Chester, then raced past Lancaster, before vanishing again into the clear blue sky.

It was a quick, but meaningful gesture for those working every day to protect and heal people from the virus.

Scott Martin is an registered nurse and a clinical director for the hospital. He saw the flyover as a way for people to look forward.

"When we come out of this we can be stronger together, " he said.

The South Carolina Air National Guard said the statewide flyovers were part of routine training, and did not cost taxpayers any additional money.

Officials also said South Carolina National Guard airmen and soldiers teamed up with state health officials to deliver “much-needed medical supplies to all 46 counties as the state continues its fight to protect South Carolinians from COVID-19.”

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