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South Carolina 'Hometown Hero' gets ride of a lifetime with Air Force Thunderbirds

The Thunderbirds gave one advocate the ride of a lifetime at Shaw Air Force Base.

Jessica Varney from Pickens County has dedicated the last year to helping save military and veteran lives through suicide prevention.

On Friday, the Thunderbirds showed their appreciation by taking her for the ride of a lifetime.

RELATED: Air Force Thunderbirds, Navy Blue Angels fly 'Super Delta' formation for the first time

"It's pretty rare to get to see the Thunderbirds up close, and the chances of flying with them are very small," said Vice Wing Commander, Kevin Hicock. 

Varney was selected for what the Thunderbirds call a "Hometown Hero" flight after being nominated by her community. 

Thunderbird pilot, Lt. Col. Ryan Yingling says it was an honor to get to take her up in the sky. 

Weasel Identity | Hometown Hero Flight Mental Health and resiliency is a team effort. We were so incredibly honored to...

Posted by Shaw Air Force Base on Friday, April 1, 2022

"For her to not have a military background and take on that role means a lot to us," Lt. Col. Yingling explained. "It was just a small token of our appreciation to what she is doing for her community and our military community."

After landing and recovering from her flight, Varney spoke about her time with the Thunderbirds.

RELATED: Thunderbirds to perform at Shaw Air Force Base

"It was amazing and I would do it again if I could," she said.

Varney says, although it was wonderful to be recognized, she still wanted all of the attention to be focused on her cause.

"Mental health is just as important as physical health. Flying in an F-16 is something I never thought I'd do but more than that it's highlighting this message," she stated.

Shaw Air & Space Expo | Gates & Parking

#ShawAirExpo | Gates & Parking The Shaw Air & Space Expo begins this weekend and is FREE to the public, no tickets needed! The Sumter, Broad and Main Gates will open at 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3. If you are handicap, please use the Main Gate and leave your flashers on. You will be directed to a designated parking area upon arrival through any gate, please do not stop! Bring your chairs, sunscreen, ear protection and cameras, it’s going to be a good time. More information can be found on our website: https://www.shaw.af.mil/2022-Shaw-Air-Space-Expo/

Posted by Shaw Air Force Base on Thursday, March 31, 2022

The Thunderbirds will perform tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 in the Air and Space Show at Shaw Air Force Base. The base encourages people to get there early to make sure they get a seat.

For further details on the show schedule, you can visit the Shaw Air Force Base website.

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