Members of Air Force Thunderbirds ‘Fly In’ for Virtual Visit with Health First Hospital Volunteers

By  //  April 20, 2021

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three members of the USAF Thunderbirds 'fly in' for a special virtual visit

L-R Flight Physician Maj. Mary Eisma, Flight Surgeon Lt. Col. Noel Colls, and Staff Sgt. Laurel Richards answer questions from Health First hospital volunteers during a live Zoom meet and greet opportunity in advance of this year’s Cocoa Beach Air Show in Brevard County, FL. (Health First Image)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Arriving in Brevard County from their home base of Las Vegas for this weekend’s Cocoa Beach Air Show, three members of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds “flew in” for a special virtual visit with members of the Health First Volunteer auxiliary.

As part of their outreach efforts, the Thunderbirds wanted to take time to recognize some of Health First’s volunteer network and thank them for standing ready – before, during, and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Marcia Phillips, who manages customer experience and volunteer services, this virtual visit by the Thunderbirds was nice opportunity to recognize our own “behind the scenes” heroes who have eagerly awaited their opportunity to get back in service to our patients and community.

“This was a real treat for our team, and we are so glad members of the Thunderbirds wanted to invest a part of their day – and during important preparations for this weekend’s air show – with some of our team,” said Phillips.

“The Hospital Division at Health First is blessed with the partnership of the Cape Canaveral Auxiliary that launched in 1962, the Holmes Regional and Palm Bay Hospital Auxiliary established in 1953, and a robust and engaged volunteer team at Viera hospital that is now 10 years strong. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Health First relied on approximately 1,100 volunteers across the four hospitals. After suspending services twice in the last year due to the pandemic, we have recently relaunched many of our services with increasing numbers in all hospitals, including Cape Canaveral Hospital, which is nearing full strength. We look forward to getting our team back to full strength with our existing members – as well as others interested in joining our mission,” Phillips continued.

The USAF Air Demonstration Squadron (“Thunderbirds”) is the air demonstration squadron of the United States Air Force (USAF). Created 68 years ago in 1953, the USAF Thunderbirds are the third-oldest formal flying aerobatic team (under the same name) in the world, after the French Air Force Patrouille de France formed in 1931 and the United States Navy Blue Angels formed in 1946.

Lanny Lillibridge (standing) poses a question to members of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds during a live Zoom meet and greet opportunity in advance of this year’s Cocoa Beach Air Show in Brevard County, FL. Mr. Lillibridge also is a U.S. Navy veteran. (Health First Image)

The Thunderbirds Squadron tours the United States and much of the world, performing aerobatic formation and solo flying in specially marked aircraft.

The squadron’s name is taken from the legendary creature that appears in the mythologies of several indigenous North American cultures.

Members included Staff Sgt. Laurel Richards, Flight Surgeon Lt. Col. Noel Colls and Flight Physician Maj. Mary Eisma.

Guests answered questions for more than a half hour on a wide variety of topics including the history of the Thunderbirds, how the team was affected by the pandemic last year, how members are chosen to be

Thunderbirds, the types of events they participate in (including many hospital flyovers in 2020) … and even what it’s like to fly at 9Gs – or 9 times the force of gravity.

“It was a great opportunity to share more about our team, and a real honor for us to meet some of the important members of the Health First volunteer team who have pledged their time and commitment to help care for your patients in Brevard County,” said Richards.

“We certainly appreciate and admire the men and women of our healthcare volunteer force – and the important impact they have across the entire country.”

MUST SEE: On-Board with USAF Thunderbirds on Saturday at the Cocoa Beach Air Show. “We couldn’t have asked for a better location or crowd for our first of many air shows this year,” said USAF Thunderbirds spokeperson. “Cocoa Beach looks incredible from the pilots’ perspective.”

USAF Thunderbirds at the 2021 Cocoa Beach Air Show. (Thunderbirds Image)