High-flying salute to Vermont essential workers

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) A statewide salute in the sky on Friday to health care professionals, essential workers and first responders. Vermont National Guard F-35s roared over the state's hospitals. Our Adam Sullivan reports.

The VA Medical Center in White River Junction was one of 15 hospitals across the state celebrated during Friday's flyover. But for some staffers here, the event had added significance.

The aerial show of thanks began in the north and circled the Green Mountain State. The parking lot at the VA Medical Center was scattered with extra visitors waiting for their chance to see the F-35s.

"We haven't had a lot of cases here but a lot of people have done a lot of work to set the hospital up for patients," said Dr. Timothy Counihan of the VA Medical Center.

In formation, the 158th Fighter Wing of the Vermont Air National Guard soared over the White River Junction facility.

Many doctors and nurses here have also served multiple tours overseas.

"You know, when I am taking care of patients, these are my brothers and sisters in arms who happen to be retired," Counihan said.

And like a soldier going to battle, front-line workers are now rising to a new call despite the potential danger. Vermont, however, has been relatively lucky when it comes to the overall number of coronavirus cases.

Spectators gathered around the state to watch the flyover. The fighter jets disappeared behind the Rutland Regional Medical Center and were out of view in a matter of seconds.

"It's cool that they are taking the time to recognize that people are putting in a lot of work right now during this pandemic," said Terrell Martin, a medical support staffer.

The planes eventually returned to the Burlington area, touching down where they first took off. The tribute only took 90 minutes, though the thanks to front-line workers continues.

"We appreciate everything you do," said Fred Zink of Hartford. "And we appreciate that you are putting yourselves out there."

"Thanks for doing it. They've done a great job. Really appreciate what they have done," said Bill Wyman of Hanover, New Hampshire.

And while COVID-19 cases at the VA Medical Center have been minimal, staffers here say service to others is something that can be celebrated every day.