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Heroes in the sky thank heroes on the ground with flyover of the Buffalo VA

Posted at 7:01 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-12 19:01:20-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Heroes in the sky thanked heroes in the hospitals with a flyover for their sacrifice on a different kind of battle field. Dozens of VA staff gathered outside to watch the planes pass overhead.

“It's humbling… It's great to see the old bird go by again,” said David Roll, the Associate Director for Patient Nurse Services at the Buffalo VA.

Roll served as a nurse in the Air Force for 40 years. He retired in 2018. He used to fly in one of the very planes he saw cross overhead.

“I tell people in the Air Force whenever we were getting ready to deploy, we had weapons training as well to protect ourselves and our patients. We definitely felt we had something to fight back with. This is the great unknown here with COVID. We're learning as we go. This is more terrifying,” said Roll.

He said the planes, a KC-135 from the 914th Air Refueling Wing’s 328th Air Refueling Squadron at NFARS and F-35s from the Vermont Air National Guard, brought a spark of joy.

“Not only is it rewarding to see the patients go home, but then to see this kind of attention as well,” Roll said.

There was even something special waiting for those 1,000 feet above.

“When we came in from Lockport and headed south, you could just see cars lined up on all sides of the road. When we were coming back North we hit the VA after flying over the City of Buffalo, Rosewell and all of them,” said SMSgt Bill Geary, Jr., 914th Air Refueling Wing.

About a dozen people at the VA spread out holding a giant American flag, big enough to be seen from the sky.

“You could just see that thing right away. It was great. Almost brought tears to our eyes,” SMSgt Geary said.

Devan Lawton said once a Marine, always a Marine. At 71 years old, he knows all about service and sacrifice.

“[It’s] terrific. Without them, a lot of people would be dead,” Lawton said, fighting back tears.

He's grateful to be part of this country at such a trying time.

“You can't beat the first responders and that in the United States here…. I'm proud as a peacock to be a citizen,” Lawton said.