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NEWS | Feb. 1, 2022

New Hampshire Guardsmen come to aid of hospital workers

By Staff Sgt. Taylor Queen, 157th ARW Public Affairs

PETERBOROUGH, N.H. – Health care workers are experiencing COVID fatigue at facilities across the state, and Monadnock Community Hospital, which serves seven towns, is no exception.

“It has been really tiring,” said Katharyn Ernst, the hospital’s philanthropy and community relations coordinator. “[Our staff] have family, they have lives, and they are working 72-plus hours. They were giving up their holidays and trying to cover shifts for each other.”

Six New Hampshire National Guard members assigned to the state’s COVID relief mission, Operation Winter Surge, are helping ease the burden.

“We’re here to support the hospital anyway we can,” said Staff Sgt. Tom Blythe, a cook with Joint Force Headquarters. “We’re just trying to make a difference.”

The Soldiers assigned to Monadnock Community Hospital help prepare and deliver food, screen patients and handle administrative duties. They also do their best to boost morale.

“My favorite thing is trying to get people to smile,” said Sgt. Blake Sullivan of Charlie Company, 3rd of the 172nd Infantry (Mountain) Regiment. “I crack a joke with them, treat them with respect, and just try to get a little smile or laugh.”

The hospital has adapted in many ways since the onset of the pandemic. It has set up a drive-thru testing area, posted health screeners at entrances and created an employee resilience committee.

“We’ve really been focusing on raising morale and lifting the spirits of everyone in the hospital,” Ernst said.

The daily Guard presence has helped.

“People will walk by and say, ‘Thank you for your help,’ and ‘Thank you for your service,’” Sullivan said. “We thank them right back.”

Along the way, the Citizen-Soldiers have developed an appreciation for hospital staff.

“We’re here for a short time,” Blythe said. “But they’re here before, during and after us. They’re the real heroes.”



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