FRANKLIN, Ind. — Healthcare workers were not the only ones getting the vaccine Wednesday.
Members of the Indiana National Guard who stepped up to respond to the call for help during this pandemic were provided that opportunity by the United States Department of Defense.
“They have stepped up, and they do want to be a part of being able to stop the pandemic and being able to control it,” said Indiana National Guard State Air Surgeon Colonel Lisa Snyder.
Many question why troops are getting the vaccine before those who are vulnerable. Top ranking officials say it’s because they’re hands on in the front-line efforts.
“Our soldiers and airmen are actually performing frontline care worker duties today and have been basically for the last nine months,” said Indiana National Guard Adjutant General Brig. Gen. R. Dale Lyles.
That includes Senior Airman Nicole Stephenson, who has been working at a longterm care facility along with 1,300 other guardsmen.
“I mean, it’s just something to help protect you and other people, so it was a no-brainer for me. I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll get it,’” said Indiana National Guard Senior Airman Nicole Stephenson.
Stephenson, a native of Greenfield, says her decision was also based on her family.
“My great grandma is in a longterm care facility, and she has had COVID, and we just haven’t been able to see her, so I feel for all the patients. I feel for all the families because my family, and I know how it is and what it feels like,” said Senior Airman Stephenson.
2,300 guardsmen have remained on active duty during the pandemic, assisting at nursing homes, food banks and with PPE distribution.
Indiana and New York were the only two National Guard sites in the country chosen by the United States Department of Defense to receive the vaccine due to their extensive roles and assistance throughout the pandemic.
“These are our family and friends. So, as she said we are willing to be ready for as long as we’re asked,” said Indiana National Guard Army State Surgeon Kernel Michael Jones.
Many who are being vaccinated are preparing to go right back into their duties, including Stephenson, who returns Friday.
“For it’s just an extra protection for me and hopefully for others that I don’t spread it or I’m not getting it,” said Senior Airman Stephenson.
Nearly 200 made the decision to get vaccinated regardless of their duties and after doing their own research.
“Think of who you want to protect. Think of who you’re doing this for,” said Indiana National Guard Airman First Class Isaiah Mossburg, Air National Guard, 122nd Fighter Wing.
The Indiana National Guard says they will continue vaccinating members over the next couple of days.