East Texas veterans, The Cedar Creek Veterans Foundation and the East Texas Veterans Community Council have a mission to help and assist veterans.
On Friday, as part of the United We Fly Independence Weekend 2020 Tyler, Texas Flyover, those groups decided to honor the healthcare workers who are taking care of a variety of patients as well as those on the front line of defense against COVID-19.
Historic planes like the B-17 Texas Raiders, the B-25 Devil Dog, SB2C Helldiver and the P-63 King Cobra who were at the first-ever Rose City AirFest at the Tyler Pounds Regional Airport, took to the sky.
The public watched the planes leave the airport and fly over the Hollytree Golf Course, over UT Health East Texas and the new Christus Trinity Mother Frances Bradley-Thompson tower.
For Joseph Harris, it was a special moment. In the Navy, he served on the USS Missouri, a battleship famous for being on the front line to end World War II during the surrender of the Empire of Japan. Harris served on the ship right after it was reactivated to help fight during Operation Desert Storm.
“I loved it .. I loved history,” said Harris after the flyover. “I hope we can get this virus under control because we are going to have the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II onboard of the USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor.
“Those are two classics right there,” he said of the planes. “It shows people back then were willing and ready to go fight for this nation. History can not and should not be removed in any way, shape or form. This shows the advances in technology from the B-17 to super sonic jets.”
Nurses, doctors and employees from Christus and UT Health were on top of the parking garages and outside watching the planes flyover then loop around and circle the hospitals in Tyler.
“We are here as front liners,” said Harris. “We need to recognize our front line people now, just like we recognize those in the front line in World War II we need to recognize the health care workers on the front line now.”
The second annual The Magnificent 7 Warbird Expo is also taking place until July 5 at the Aviation Memorial Museum at the
Proceeds from Rose City AirFest primarily will go to support Camp V, Tyler, an all-inclusive veterans support center in Tyler. Camp V, Tyler, is a new 20-acre campus that will serve veterans, active service members, reserve or family members in need of mental, physical and spiritual wellness assistance.
Pilot Edward Vesely flew the Curtis Helldiver, There were 7,100 built during World War II and his plane is the only one left still flying. There are only five in existence. he flies for the veterans, including his father who fought in World War II.
“We flew up here to honor the 4th of July and the hospital to have some of the veterans see us fly and pay tribute to them,” said Vesely. “We want to commemorate those who serve today and those who served in the past.”
Beth Jenkins, operations officer with United We Fly.
“A lot of event have been canceled and we wanted to do this and keep spirits high,” said Jenkins.
Hospital officials said mission accomplished.
Will Knous of Christus Trinity Mother Frances communications director for Northeast Texas and Louisiana had a view from on top of the parking garage.
“It’s pretty exciting for everyone up here and we thank the veterans group,” said Knous. “We had people on the garage, the tower, the helipad, it’s an honor to get that salute. They have worked so hard for this.”
Allison Pollan, communications director for UT Health East Texas said, “Everyone was lined up and excited.”
Moody Chisholm, UT Health East Texas president and CEO, was among those watching the tribute.
“Our caregivers have been on the front line of COVID-19 for the past three months and working tirelessly against the dreaded virus, so to step outside just for a few minute to show support of what they are doing was tremendous and uplifting and a bright spot in their day,” said Pollan.