Michigan National Guard
Story by Master Sgt. David Eichaker
COLDWATER, Mich.— The Michigan National Guard recently supported a tri-county mass vaccination clinic during a community-based first and second vaccination dose event.
“We are doing a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic today,” said David Fowler, clinic supervisor of the Coldwater office, Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency. “It is a combined first and second doses in which we have about 400 first doses and just under 200 second doses for people that received their first dose 4 weeks ago today.”
The vaccination clinic is primarily serving the elderly population, but not entirely.
“We are serving several different of the vaccine priority category groups but 65 and over is the largest that we see,” said Fowler. “We are still serving first responders, healthcare workers, police officers, fire fighters, corrections officers, and school personnel.”
An elderly brother-sister duo came in for their second doses in hopes of staying healthy and being able to see family.
“It’s important for us so we don’t get the COVID-19 sickness,” said Walter Laba, a resident of Coldwater, Michigan. “We are 83 and 81 years old—my sister and I, and I think it’s just an important thing to do.”
Laba, who served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1960-1966 has hopes of seeing family members soon.
“We don’t see family as often as we like,” said Laba. “We missed them on Thanksgiving and Christmas and we definitely plan on seeing our nieces and nephews this spring.”
Getting communities vaccinated can be considered a large undertaking. The Michigan National Guard has augmented and partnered with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to ensure maximum coverage of the Great Lakes State. Although there are several Guard members assisting in this task in various capacities, only those who are medically trained and qualified are physically administering the vaccine.
“Getting to work with the community and, in a way, saving lives has made me feel so proud,” said U.S. Army Private First Class Allyson Olson, combat medic, 126th Infantry Regiment, assigned to COVID-19 Vaccination Testing Team Task Force Bronco. “This wasn’t what I was expecting to do with my military career but now I am and actually giving back to the community in a bigger way than I expected to—it’s a proud moment.”
Olson, who has just less than two years of service in the Michigan Army National Guard, wants to pursue a civilian career in the medical field.
“My sister was in the National Guard and said I would be a very good fit,” said Olson. “I liked the medical field and thought this would be a good way to see if it’s actually what I want to do with my life—and it is.”
“I am starting college again in the fall and want to become a registered nurse,” she said.
Obtaining the vaccinations can offer security for the residents of not only Coldwater, but the surrounding areas.
“We are seeing almost everybody coming in from Coldwater, Bronson, and Quincy areas,” said Fowler. “We will serve residents from all three of our counties at any of our clinics and it’s significant for the health and safety of our community and we need to get as many people vaccinated as we can."
The experiences of receiving the vaccination and clinic operations has caught the attention of Laba.
“Overall we are having a great experience and these people are taking care of us first class,” he said. “We never believed it would be such a smooth system with how things would run and we are very appreciative.”