Three Eastern North Carolina hospitals were saluted by members of the 2nd Air Wing, Cherry Point early Thursday afternoon.


Four Harriers, led by Captain Ryan Frantz, tore across the sky at CarolinaEast at 12:10 p.m. to a cheering parking lot full of hospital employees and guests who had preceded the visit by singing a round of "Lean On Me."


The other hospitals included Careteret Health and Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune.


The hospital was alerted to the intended flyover on Wednesday, according to hospital spokeswoman Brandy Popp. Cherry Point sent one corporal on ahead with a camera to record the event.


"It’s been in the works for awhile," Lt. Gaby Mogollan of the 2nd Air Wing, said. "But I got approved yesterday, and it was scheduled for today."


She added that the flyover was "in support of the healthcare workers and first-responders who have been combating COVID-19."


Among the crowd watching was registered nurse Melissa Frantz and her children – the wife and children of Capt. Frantz. Melissa, who works directly with COVID-19 patients at the hospital, said that, "I’m just honored that I am able to watch him do a flyover at the place where I work." She said she was pleased the Marines saluted the hospital. "We do work really hard," she said, adding of Nurses’ Week, "It’s nice to get recognition every year."


She said she was especially pleased that the military, that usually gets recognition for its work, took time to to recognize the hospitals.


Hospital board member – and retired head of Cherry Point – General Tom Braaten was on scene to watch.


"I think it’s great," he said. "We’ve always had a great relationship with the hospital." He noted that the base relies on CarolinaEast since the Cherry Point hospital was converted into a clinic.


Among the things CarolinaEast has done for Marines, he said, is hook up live video so new fathers serving in Afghanistan or other areas across the globe can watch the birth of their children.


Braaten noted that Marines, "understand that it’s not just the pilots. So, here, it’s not just the doctors. Each person (on the staff) has a job, and all of them are essential."


Hospital CEO Ray Leggett said he thought the flyover was "really special."


"We’re huge supporters of our military," he said. "We’re so grateful for what those me and women do every day, and the fact that they would take time to recognize our staff is really special.


"Speaking of special," he added, "That’s our staff. They always answer the call. I could not be more proud of them."


After the four AV-8 Harriers made the flyover, the crowd slowly dispersed. About five minutes after the parking lot was emptied, a lone military C-17 flew low overhead, dipping its wing as it passed. Lt. Mogollan identified the aircraft as being from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro.


A CarolinaEast spokesman said the hospital had not had prior word that the C-17 would be making a pass.