National Guard members worked to make vaccination at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds run smoothly. photo by Bill Bartlett
National Guard members worked to make vaccination at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds run smoothly. photo by Bill Bartlett
When you get your COVID vaccine, if you haven’t already, chances are 8 in 10 that it will be administered by a member of the Army or Air National Guard. Twenty-something uniformed Guard are among the nearly 200 staff on hand at the Deschutes County Expo Center inoculating around 2,500 per day.

As this is written, 130 St. Charles volunteers were joining paid staff in getting shots in the arm. In the age-75-plus bracket who received their first dose on a sunny Friday, you find the expected age appropriate range of infirmities, from sight and hearing impairment, to mobility issues, to the occasional mental capacity concerns.

If ever there was proof of our better angels, a visit to the Expo Center was all you needed to restore your faith in human kindness.

A squad of covered golf carts shuttled the needy from the vast parking lot to the check-in booths. Then a host of color-vested “flow” volunteers kept the lines moving, shepherding folks to the next station. Anybody needing help didn’t have to ask. A swarm of paid and unpaid workers swooped in to assist with screening, paperwork completion, and generally reassuring the assembled that all would be well.

The operation was flawless. In my shift I never witnessed anybody needing more than 15 minutes to get vaccinated. That follows with a mandatory 15-minute seated observation period to be certain of no adverse effects. With few exceptions, everybody was in and out in under 30 minutes.

Among the myriad volunteers were nonpracticing, licensed physicians working the parking lot. There was no distinction of experience — only what could be done to help. Two scheduled Spanish language interpreters were on hand but others were identified for backup. Retired registered nurses were just as content to inject as to push a wheelchair.

The gratitude and gentleness of the recipients was remarkable. There was no pushing or complaining, no demands made, just choruses of “thank you” and “bless you.” Friends recognized friends from the community and offered encouragement. After all, there is still some anxiety about inoculations in general and COVID vaccines in particular. Today’s vaccine was the Moderna version, whereas the Pfizer blend had been the primary formula administered in Deschutes County until the last few days.

The Guard was particularly sensitive to their fellow citizens. Nobody was rushed. Questions were encouraged. The banter with military veterans and their Guard inoculators was palpable. Tears were in abundance, despite the best efforts to choke them back. America was at her best in these times of shared sacrifice. It was obvious in a facility better known for livestock shows.

Angels were in Redmond. I saw them.