SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
The 20th Fighter Wing honored 20 individuals, nominated by their peers, as Hometown Heroes during the Shaw Air and Space Expo, April 2-3.
Hometown Heroes are individuals who take action to serve others in their local communities. Even though they don’t seek glory or rewards for the impact they make, this program ensured they received the recognition they deserved.
Nominees included police officers, firefighters, nurses, teachers and many other citizens who work tirelessly within their communities to make them safer and improve the lives of those around them.
“Shaw relies on community support to rapidly provide airpower anytime, anywhere,” said Col. Lawrence Sullivan, 20th Fighter Wing commander. “There are so many people in the community doing the right thing when no one is looking; it is important we take time to recognize their contributions and service too.”
Of the 20 individuals, Lt. JJ Ardis and Jessica Varney, were chosen for a flight in an F-16 Fighting Falcon with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds as part of the aerial demonstration squadron’s Hometown Hero program. The program salutes everyday American citizens doing amazing things in their communities all around the country.
Ardis, a Sumter County Sheriff’s Office deputy, was nominated for his commitment to the safety and wellbeing of the Sumter community. He was the recipient of Deputy of the Year along with two Deputy of the Month awards. Ardis has been in law enforcement for over 17 years, 13 of which have been in service to the Sumter community.
“I can’t thank you all enough,” said Ardis. “For not only serving this country in the Air Force but also for this chance to fly with the Thunderbirds. My family is the reason I do what I do, if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here today so I also want to thank them for always being there for me.”
Varney, a team lead for the Pickens County Crisis Intercept Mapping for Suicide Prevention among service members, veterans and their families, was nominated for her dedication to helping reduce the number of suicides in her community.
“It was amazing and I would do it again if I could,” said Varney. “I am so appreciative of Shaw and the Thunderbirds for this unbelievable opportunity.”
Ardis and Varney began their Thunderbird experience with a medical check-up with the team's flight surgeon, who made sure they were in good physical health and mentally prepared to endure the demands of the flight. After being medically cleared and receiving a safety briefing, they suited up for their flight.
During the airshow, all 20 of the nominees had the opportunity to be recognized for their selfless dedication to their community. Those in attendance received an American flag flown by the 77th Fighter Squadron and had an opportunity to meet with Shaw leadership.