BILLINGS — A parade made up of Billings first responders moved through the downtown hospital corridor Wednesday afternoon before the Montana National Guard flew over the city, all to honor those around the state fighting COVID-19.
The parade on the ground was made up of Billings police, Yellowstone County sheriff's deputies, ambulance personnel and tow trucks. The parade served to help kick off National Nurses Week, which recognizes the hard work of nurses across the country.
“It’s always a great week for us to pause and reflect on the great things that we’ve accomplished and how nurses contribute to the health of not just organizations like Billings Clinic, but to our community, our state and our nation," said Laurie Smith, nursing officer and vice president of hospital operations at Billings Clinic.
Smith said the parade serving as a gesture of solidarity was appreciated by medical staff.
“This is a great way to celebrate nurses week. We certainly appreciate the law enforcement, fire department and pre-hospital folks. They are a part of our family for sure," Smith said
The parade began at 12:30 p.m. It snaked through the Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare campuses before driving down North 27th Street to pass by RiverStone Health. Smith said hospital staff appreciated the recognition that came in the form of flashing lights and sirens.
"I heard multiple comments from the nurses that they were just feeling gratitude for the expression of appreciation. And it’s reciprocal. We appreciate them just as much as they appreciate us," Smith said.
Following the parade, around 12:50 p.m., a C130 airplane piloted by Montana National Guard service members buzzed over the city of Billings.
The plane was one of two that departed from Great Falls around 10:15 a.m. The crafts took separate routes to fly over towns in eastern and western Montana. The plane on the eastern route flew over Great Falls, Lewistown, Harlem, Wolf Point, Glendive, Miles City, Hardin, Billings, Livingston and Bozeman.
A social media post on the Montana National Guard's social media billed the flight as "a salute to Montana's first responders on the front lines."
As of Wednesday, Montana has seen 456 cases of COVID-19. Smith said that Montana residents have slowed the spread, but the fight isn't over yet.
“Montana has done a great job flattening the curve, but there is still work to be done. We can’t take our eye off the ball. We need to be vigilant and maintain social distancing and good hand hygiene. I have to put a plug in for good hygiene. It’s the single most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19," Smith said.