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story.lead_photo.caption Three P-51 Mustang fighter planes and a 1944 Goodyear F2G Super Corsair fly Saturday over Texarkana during a statewide flyover to salute health care workers and first responders in Arkansas. (Photo by Jonathan Naples)

TEXARKANA Texas — For a few moments, downtown Texarkana resembled the final scene in the movie "Saving Private Ryan" as P-51 Mustang fighter planes conducted low-level sweeps through Saturday's early afternoon blue skies.

The scenery did have a modern application, in that its purpose was to celebrate heroic ongoing efforts to save lives during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks to Steuart Walton, chairman of the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force, who led the flight, the four warplanes — a 1944 Goodyear F2G Super Corsair and three North American P-51 Mustangs — brought attention to the tens of thousands of health care workers and first responders in Arkansas who continue to work at restoring health to people afflicted by the virus.

"This means a lot to people our age,"said local resident Cliff Robertson, who spent about 50 years working in the local pharmacy industry. "We remembered our parents telling us about another worldwide threat facing us when we were growing up in different times. I was about 10 years old when saw a group of planes just like these, swooping down over the College Hill area, during a civil defense drill in 1952."

Scattered groups of residents gathered throughout downtown Texarkana to photograph the vintage
plane flight.

Three P-51 Mustang fighter planes and a 1944 Goodyear F2G Super Corsair fly Saturday over Texarkana during a statewide flyover to salute health care workers and first responders in Arkansas.
Photo by Greg Bischof/Texarkana Gazette.

With the flyover's theme being "Arkansas: A United State," Texarkana was one of 15 Arkansas cities the flight visited — with all four planes taking off from Bentonville early Saturday morning.

Walton, an accomplished pilot, received an appointment from Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson last month to lead the task force on a mission to provide recommendations for reviving Arkansas' economy.

"It's quite an emotional feeling getting to watch something like this," said Tanya Harrelson, a local businesswoman, in downtown Texarkana. "It's great for people to take the time to fly over and recognize so many people trying save lives in a time like this. It's just unbelievable."

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