The four-aircraft formation made passes over Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital Emerald Coast, Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, Twin Cities Hospital and North Okaloosa Medical Center.
MIRAMAR BEACH — A flyover of four local hospitals by four Eglin AFB jets was a moving experience for hospital personnel who took a minute from their workdays to enjoy the tribute.
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Part of the “Air Force Salutes” program honoring front-line workers dealing with COVID-19, was a flyover comprised of two F-15s and two F-16s from Eglin’s 96th Test Wing. The four-aircraft formation made passes over Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital Emerald Coast, Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, Twin Cities Hospital and North Okaloosa Medical Center.
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At Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital Emerald Coast in Miramar Beach, staff members began gathering on the lawn in front of the hospital about 15 minutes before the 1:30 p.m. flyover.
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Waiting for the jets, Ken Fourshee, who works in the dietary department, marveled at the gesture as another sign of the community’s support for health care workers.
In fact, Fourshee said, much of the work of the dietary staff these days is serving food donated by local restaurants.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said.
As the jets approached, hospital staff members raised their cell phones to capture the fleeting moment as the jets roared low above the front of the hospital.
It was a particularly moving moment for Aleta Jackson, the hospital’s surgical service manager. Jackson, an Air Force veteran, retired a few years ago after 27 years, including service as an operating room nurse.
“It just makes my heart full,” Jackson said as she walked back into the hospital after the tribute.
With Jackson was Casey Posada, the hospital’s spine program coordinator.
“It feels powerful to know that people who put their lives on the line every day are recognizing us,” she said.
At Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, staff members gathered in scattered groups outside the main entrance and stood atop the hospital’s helipad as the four jets from Eglin raced west to east over the hospital.
“That was really great to see the military come out and support the civilian sector,” said Cindy Tankersley, a pediatric emergency room nurse.
A nurse since 2006, Tankersley also is an Air Force veteran. She spent 33 years in the service, including some time in the Air Force Reserve, as an aircraft maintainer.
“I started out on F-16s when I was a little baby in the Air Force,” she said. But, she added, “My heart was always in the medical field. I’ve been a nurse since 2006 and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Also on hand at FWBMC for Thursday’s flyover was state Rep. Mel Ponder, R-Fort Walton Beach. He was at the hospital to visit with healthcare workers and thank them for their part in the fight against COVID-19.
“The medical community has been on the front lines since day one,” said Ponder. “We’re very fortunate in our area that our medical community’s very well prepared.”