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Father & son serve as frontline workers during Covid-19 crisis

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kelsey Martinez
  • 914th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION, N.Y. — To serve as a frontline worker during the Covid-19 crisis holds a different perspective to every American. A parent working from home while homeschooling a child, an emergency responder or healthcare worker clocking in for another long day, an essential personnel employee ensuring shelves are stocked and supplies are readily accessible; either way, each person has an important role to fill.

Following routine training operations, a KC-135 from the 914th Air Refueling Wing and three F-35s from 158th Fighter Wing, Burlington, Vermont, honored frontline workers during the Covid-19 pandemic by conducting a flyover above parts of Western New York, May 12, 2020.

For 1st Lt. Michael Unruh, a pilot from the 328th Air Refueling Squadron, here, assisting with the Air Force Salute WNY flyover was his way of giving back to the community during these times of hardship.

“I am so proud of the hard work and dedication my father and all other healthcare workers are displaying endlessly,” said Unruh.

Unruh was completing quarterly training in conjunction with the flyover.

“It’s not just about the training and being well prepared for upcoming missions,” he said. “It is so much more by simply including the community.”

Lt. Unruh mentioned that he has family and friends who are working as first responders and emergency personnel, so although it might not be a direct effect on him, the Covid-19 crisis is directly affecting loved ones.

“They are constantly exposed, and it is a major concern,” he said. “I know that they are the brave ones for standing tall through times of adversity.”

Kevin Unruh, father of 1st Lt. Unruh, and Vice President of Stony Brook University Hospital Southampton, N.Y. directly oversees many of the units including, but not limited to: medical oncology, wound care, environmental services, biomedical and safety security.

“Covid-19 has affected everyone in one way or another,” said Mr. Unruh. “Every area of the hospital has been affected to meet the safety requirements that the government has put in place.”

Mr. Unruh stated that the government communicated clearly with the hospital as to what their expectations moving forward would be in terms of how many beds and intensive care units would be available, and providing additional agency staffing to provide proper care for Covid-19 patients.

“There was never a moment that we were blindsided with expectations because we received daily support,” said Mr. Unruh. “It made getting the job done a lot more manageable.”

Mr. Unruh mentioned that the medical career field continuously trains and drills for disaster, ensuring there is a system in place, in the instance that anything happens.

“Similar to the military, the training never ends,” said Mr. Unruh.

One thing that has been proven true over 30 years of experience is that it is imperative to build an exceptional team, so no person feels they are working alone, Mr. Unruh said.

“We are a team comprised of well-trained, passionate people who came together when our country needed it most,” said Mr. Unruh. “We all stepped up as one to meet the challenge.”

Mr. Unruh was surprised at how many frontline workers volunteered to do more than asked, rather than facing the pandemic with fear, leaving the job to be done by someone else.

“It has been amazing to see the teamwork excel in such strenuous times,” Mr. Unruh said. “We have a system, and it worked.”

Mr. Unruh said the Air Force flyover was a success and a huge morale booster.

“I feel that as many people who could get out of the hospital and gather from the community were waiting in the parking lot,” said Mr. Unruh. “It was great to see the community so connected and supported by the military nonetheless.”

As a parent to a son in the military, Mr. Unruh recognizes all the hard work, dedication, and sacrifice it has taken for his son to achieve his goals.

“I couldn’t be more proud of my son,” said Mr. Unruh. “It is incredible to me that you don’t know when or where duty will call you, but still you stand ready and willing.”

Mr. Unruh said it is important to remember that this is just one of many events that the Air Force has coordinated to show support and bring the community together.

“Those of you in the military are my heroes,” said Mr. Unruh. “It is a phenomenal commitment that each of you has made.”

1st Lt. Unruh said that it was an absolute pleasure to be a part of the flyover as an attempt to connect the community and give back to those who have sacrificed so much during the Covid-19 crisis.

“I’m thankful to have been a part of our base’s way of giving back to the community that continues to support us,” said 1st Lt. Unruh.