125th Fighter Wing conducts annual flyover to honor and celebrate military service members


Health and safety protocols may have forced the suspension of the Military Appreciation Day ceremony this year at THE PLAYERS Championship, but one annual tradition was upheld Tuesday.

At noon, four F-15 Eagles from the 125th Fighter Wing/FLANG roared across the sky over the clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass, the No. 18 fairway and the iconic No. 17 hole.

Minutes later, the jets flew over Naval Air Station Jacksonville, the St. John River and finally downtown Jacksonville, afterwards landing at Jacksonville International Airport. Prior to their arrival at TPC Sawgrass, the 125th Fighter Wing flew over Naval Air Station Mayport.

“The 125th Fighter Wing, Home of the Thunder, is extremely proud to perform the flyover for Military Appreciation Day in honor of our fellow service members and community of supporters,” said Col. Matthew J. French, commander. “This year’s flyover will be even more meaningful as it’s an opportunity to show our gratitude to all of our Florida National Guardsmen, first responders and medical providers that are serving locally at COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites, bringing peace and calm to our families, friends and neighbors throughout Jacksonville and across this great state.”

In fact, the 125th Fighter Wing played a crucial role in the state’s response to COVID-19 over the past year.

Since March 2020, more than 580 125th Fighter Wing airmen have been on duty at community-based testing sites, assisted living facilities, airports and food banks providing support. They have assisted with testing, screening, food distribution and traffic control.

Currently, 100 personnel have been activated across the state.

In reference to those serving at the testing and vaccination sites, French called the flyover “a small demonstration of a huge appreciation we have for their selfless service and steadfast resolve to support us all in these most trying times.”

More than 1,600 citizen-airmen are assigned to 25 units within the 125th Fighter Wing. It operates across seven geographically separated locations.

In addition to its F-15 air superiority mission, citizen-airmen provide experienced CV-22 operations and maintenance support to Air Force Special Operations Command missions from Hurlburt Field, operate counter-space systems at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, provide joint force-communications from MacDill Air Force Base and deliver rapid engineer, heavy construction, repair capability and combat weather forecasting from Camp Blanding Joint Training Center.