Michigan National Guard
Story by Staff Sgt. Tegan Kucera
MARSHALL, Mich.— A Michigan National Guard medic had the rare opportunity to vaccinate his extended family.
U.S. Army Spc. Zach Loughrige is a combat medic with the Michigan National Guard’s COVID-19 Vaccination Testing Team’s Task Force Bronco. His team recently supported local health officials during a community vaccination event held at a church, but this particular mission was more personal for the Soldier.
The difference with this mission is the Marshall Crossroads Church, not only his childhood church, but some of his family members started it.
“This was a really cool experience and never in a million years would I have thought I would be on one of two teams selected for that mission,” said Z. Loughrige. “Out of the 25 teams in Task Force Bronco, it was just pure happenstance, but it was pretty cool.”
Z. Loughrige has been attending services in Marshall as a child because his aunt and uncle started the church and are both pastors there. Even though Z. Loughrige wasn’t raised in Marshall, he spent one day a week in the town going to church and seeing his family, so the town is very special to him.
“I would say this is the most worthwhile thing—just to be a part of this mission,” said Z. Loughrige. “I feel an immense amount of pride in being part of the effort to get out in front of this virus and prevent more people from dying.”
The Michigan Soldier was helping in administering the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to the Marshall community at the behest of the Calhoun County Health Department. He was one of four vaccinators and was the only one who had family members attend the event.
“This is definitely the most important thing that I’ve ever done in the Michigan National Guard,” said Z. Loughrige.
Not only was he able to vaccinate his aunts and uncles, but also his grandmother and the town elders he grew up around.
“It’s good to see the next generation serving their fellowman,” said Kathleen Loughrige, a pastor at Marshall Crossroad Church and Spc. Loughrige’s aunt. “I’m proud of Zach for serving, for making our country safe, and this is just part of making our country and community safe.”
When the health department gave the first dose of the vaccine, they did so without the Michigan National Guard. For the second dose, they asked for help and the Guard provided.
“We’re always willing to do what we can to help facilitate the health department, we love the opportunity for being the site for the solution to this pandemic,” said K. Loughrige.
The church offers itself as an emergency shelter, host human trafficking classes for the police, have blood drives, food pantries and of course the offer the site for vaccinations.
“My son, Zach’s cousin, back in 2009 got the flu (H1N1) he was 21 years old and he passed away from the flu, so it became very personal, really anything of that nature has,” said K. Loughrige.
Health departments across Michigan are vaccinating the population that is 65.
“The health department are really the heroes among us, along with the help of the military, when we all work together it’s a beautiful thing,” said K. Loughrige.