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Positive Connections: Kansas National Guard descends on Wichita, vaccinates thousands

Positive Connections

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Some Kansas heroes are playing a big part in the fight against the coronavirus in Sedgwick County.

It’s hard to miss the men and women in uniform sprinkled about the county’s mass vaccination site. Each one smiling behind their masks, eager to help the next person in line.

1st Lt. Russell Clark talks with Sedgwick County resident before administering the coronavirus vaccine.

“Being here, being able to give vaccines to people in need as we move through the process, we are excited to be able to be a part of this to make a better situation for our community,” said 1st Lt. Russell Clark of the Kansas Army National Guard.

1st Lt. Russell Clark is a registered nurse and Andover native. He has been called on numerous times since joining the National Guard in 1993.

“No matter what the event is, be it a tornado event in Greensburg, flooding that happened in Augusta in the late 90s, ice storms that have happened, providing hay to cattle in western Kansas, the assets that we have, the training that we have, we have well-trained individuals,” 1st Lt. Clark said.

Clark is using his training as a registered nurse to courageously and respectfully vaccinate his fellow Kansans. Since beginning the vaccination mission in Sedgwick County in March, he has given more than 1,500 doses.

“Being able to do my civilian job and military job together is absolutely wonderful to give back to the State of Kansas,” 1st Lt. Clark said.

Staff Sgt. Shusie Tran smiles as she explains the coronavirus vaccine protocols.

Staff Sgt. Shusie Tran with the Kansas Air National Guard has a similar sentiment.

“It makes me feel really good. It makes me feel like this is exactly what I joined for,” said Staff Sgt. Tran.

Similar to Clark, Tran has a medical background. She specializes in medically processing and clearing airmen for missions.

“It’s been really rewarding. Back in 2015, when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I was in this spot I was like, ‘OK I am going to do medical, but then I wanted to do something more and this is exactly what I wanted to do,'” she said.

The guardsmen agree, the vaccine mission is unique and at times tiring, but the people and the patients they serve make the long hours worth it. That goes for those manning the computers and scheduling systems as well.

“When you hear thank you for your service, that five seconds means a lot to you. Long days just mean a greater outcome,” said Airman 1st Class Jazmyne Florio.

Airman 1st Class Florio is in health administration with the 184th at McConnell Air Force Base. She’s also a full-time college student.

“There are so many people who thank us for our service, ask us how we are doing, where we are at, so much appreciation has been shown,” Airman 1st Class Florio said.

The guardsmen say every shot and every thank you reiterates why they serve.

“It’s honestly been really rewarding to me. I can’t put much words to describe it. It just puts a big warmth in my heart, honestly,” Staff Sgt. Tran said.

“Being positive is knowing you really believe you are making a difference and the people you are vaccinating every day let you know you are making a positive change, they are very appreciative of us in uniform,” 1st Lt. Clark said.

The National Guard sent three teams to Sedgwick County in mid March to help administer the vaccine.

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