Everyday Heroes

Amazing Aerial Salute To First Responders: See If It's Headed To Your City!

The military Thunderbirds and Blue Angels stunt squadrons are on a countrywide mission called Operation America Strong.

There's nothing quite as breathtaking as watching our country's two highly trained military demonstration squadrons do their thing high in the sky. I can vouch, since I've seen both the Navy Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds perform at air shows here in Pittsburgh.

Now people in dozens of cities and metros will have the chance to see them in a salute the doctors, nurses, first responders and other frontline workers who are sacrificing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today the two units kicked off the series of country-wide flyovers, dubbed AmericaStrong, with a rare joint performance in the skies over New York City, Newark, Trenton and Philadelphia. The squadrons launched from Pensacola, FL where they did a final practice run Monday:

(Video: New York International Air Show/Facebook)

"We're really excited to take to the skies with our Navy counterparts for a nation-wide tribute to the women and men retaining our communities protected," said Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Thunderbird 1 and mission commander for the flyover. "We hope to present Individuals a touching show of American resolve that honors these serving on the frontline of our combat with COVID-19."

While the full schedule of flyovers, including cities, dates and times hasn't been announced, USA Today says the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds will fly at least 6 more joint operations over Washington DC, Baltimore, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Austin.

The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds have been talking for months about a nationwide salute to coronavirus frontline workers.Blue Angels/Facebook

The Blue Angels will fly their blue-and-gold F/A-18 Hornets separately over at least 13 other cities, including Miami, Tampa, Tallahassee and Jacksonville in Florida and Norfolk and Virginia Beach in Virginia, Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, and Kingsville and Corpus Christi in Texas.

The Thunderbirds are considering flights over San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Oregon and Seattle.

The Thunderbirds will do at least 6 more joint flyovers, and additional solo squad flights.Thunderbirds/Facebook

Not to be outdone, San Diego organized its own local aerial salute Friday, with 30 small planes flying over 12 area hospitals while medical staff, patients and other spectators watched from the ground.

Small planes did stunts while hospital workers watched from the ground.San Diego Salute

The flyovers were organized by veteran pilot, Marine Phil Kendro, whose wife works at one of the hospitals. He flew a 1940s-era American pre-World War II Stearman trainer.

(Video: Phil Kendro/Facebook)

Some of the other small planes featured in the flyby included Piper Club aircraft, and a commemorative Air Force Air Group One aircraft. Some aircraft did stunts, while others wrote sky messages in smoke, and pilot J.D. Money towed a thank-you banner.

JD Money towed a banner to say thanks!Money Aerial Media/Instagram

"It's so exciting that people are willing to go that extra mile for our workers because they are giving so much of themselves here," Nurse Colleen Murphy told CBS8.

"Every form of gratitute and expresssion we get is so meaningful."

Hospital worker Jan Zachary agreed. "This just lifts the spirits. Our community has done nothing but support us during this pandemic and we are eternally grateful."

We echo the praise of the local small plane pilots, all the way up to the military squads. What a great -- and patriotic -- way to salute sacrifice during this challenging time.

How can you start something good?

The military won't announce the dates and times for the flyovers in other other cities we've identified. We recommend keeping an eye on your local media for that information, and specific places to watch them. You'll want to turn out (while keeping social distancing!) to see the show, and salute your local health care workers and first responders.

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