Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, Arizona, to include the 56th Fighter Wing and the 944th Fighter Wing , along with the Arizona National Guard 161st Air Refueling Wing, performed an "honor flight" for front-line COVID-19 responders with a community flyover on Friday.
"We are honored to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the healthcare workers, first responders, military members and other essential personnel who are working on the front lines to combat the coronavirus," said Brig. Gen. Todd Canterbury, 56th Fighter Wing commander. "We want everyone to be able to look up from their homes and enjoy the display of American airpower, resolve and pride while keeping frontline defenders in their hearts."
A formation of 15 aircraft, including seven F-35A Lightning IIs and seven F-16 Fighting Falcons flying out of Luke Air Force Base and one KC-135 from the 161st ARW began the flyover at approximately 3:10 p.m. The flight lasted nearly an hour. The flight was part of a larger Air Force movement to honor and show the Department of Defense’s respect to all front-line workers in this challenging time.
Colonel Mark "Juice" Whisler, commander of the 425th Fighter Squadron at Luke AFB, was one of the pilots. He attended Great Falls High School, graduating in 1997. He said he wants to do this in honor of his wife, who's a nurse. "Healthcare workers have been in the trenches dealing with this virus thing from the start. To be able to honor all the health care workers is fantastic, but it's a little bit more special for me because my wife is part of that group."
He also says that the roles have been reversed in who everyone is thanking now: "I want to give a huge thanks to all healthcare workers. I know that the last, you know, two months has been trying for everyone, not just healthcare workers, but everyone and then healthcare workers have to still on top of being trying, quarantine, and all that kind of stuff. They even have to show up to work and put themselves basically in danger to protect all of us. So it's a little bit of role reversal after being in the military for 20 years. You know, everyone always thanks us for doing what we do, and now we are thanking the healthcare workers."