Flyover recognition

The Minnesota National Guard conducted flyovers on May 6 to recognize those on the COVID-19 front lines. The National Guard will now fly over other areas today, including Fergus Falls, Alexandria and Detroit Lakes.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has redefined the meaning of the “front line.” It is no longer a place of guns, cannons and carnage. It is a fight being waged in quiet corridors and private rooms by men and women wearing personal protective equipment. Their fight is to preserve life wherever it is threatened.

As part of Minnesota Veterans Homes Week, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) will be recognizing the 1,250 staff members who care for more than 700 residents of Minnesota’s five Veterans Homes with a series of flyovers on Wednesday over cities in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

“It’s really great that they are going to recognize our health care workers,” Fergus Falls Veterans Home administrator Scott Buchanan said Tuesday. “Our staff is the best staff I’ve ever worked with.”

A pair of F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth are scheduled to arrive over Fergus Falls between noon and 12:15 p.m. The flyover will honor health workers at both the Minnesota Veterans Home on North Park Street and at Lake Region Heathcare on South Cascade Street.

Other northwestern Minnesota cities the F-16s will visit Wednesday will include International Falls, Baudette, Roseau, Thief River Falls, Moorhead, Detroit Lakes, Alexandria, Crosby and Aitkin. 

Aircraft of the 934th Air Wing of the Air Force Reserve, in addition to the Minnesota National Guard. will be carrying out the state flyovers, which will provide recognition to those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to honoring military veterans.

“We are proud to extend our gratitude across Minnesota and honor those who have been working non-stop to keep our community safe by thanking them with this series of flyovers,” said Col. Chris Lay, commander of the 934th Air Wing.

The Fergus Falls Veterans Home is licensed for 106 residents. It employs a staff of 200 which are divided between three different shifts. The residents of the Fergus Falls home are mainly men but some of these veterans have their wives with them at the facility. Female veterans have also lived in Fergus Falls Veterans Home since it opened in 1998.

“Many of our employees are connected with vets in some way, shape or form so they really buy into our mission,” Fergus Falls Veterans Home public relations director Deanna Mounts said. “Our mission pulls our team together.”

Most of the residents of the Fergus Falls Veterans Home are from the Korean War era (1950-1953) and the Vietnam War era (1965-1975) according to Mounts. 

As of Tuesday, 25 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Otter Tail County but no deaths from the coronavirus had been recorded. Of the 12,494 Minnesotans known to have the COVID-19 virus, 1,436 are health care workers. Some 614 lives have been lost to COVID-19 across the state.

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