HELENA — On this Veterans Day, many soldiers and airmen from the Montana National Guard are still hard at work, assisting hospitals with their response to COVID.
“Part of the reason we’re in the National Guard is not only to defend the country, but also to stand alongside our state citizens and help them out when they need it,” said Maj. Ron Timblin, the officer in charge of 15 Guard members currently working at St. Peter’s Health in Helena.
Timblin says they have been doing everything from helping patients on respirators, assisting with processing COVID tests and cleaning rooms after patients leave to working in the kitchen, helping deliver patients’ food and doing laundry support.
“The interactions we’ve had here with both the public and the hospital staff have been encouraging,” he said. “The patients love us, to talk to us – they find out we’re with the Guard and they’re just so thankful to have us here – and it’s almost you want to tell them how much you’re grateful to be able to provide that opportunity to help serve them as well.”
This has been a year when the Guard has done a lot of support work in the state, both for COVID response and for wildfires.
Some Guard members, because of their civilian jobs, are only able to work two weeks at a time. Others, like Timblin, have been in the hospitals since September and will be staying for the duration of their support mission.
“When that support is no longer needed, then we will no longer provide the support to the hospitals, but until then we are on mission to help out,” he said.
Timblin says working in the hospital has given them a clear view of the impact of the pandemic.
“It’s pretty hard, watching some of the patients, what they’re going through, and realizing that you could be in that same spot with just the luck of the draw,” he said.
He urged people to continue taking steps to limit the spread of COVID, and to consider getting vaccinated.