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Camden Clark employees thank departing National Guard members | News, Sports, Jobs

Members of the West Virginia Army and Air National Guard are applauded by WVU Medicine Camden Clark employees Friday, the last day they were stationed at the hospital. The soldiers have been working in a variety of roles since late January as part of a mission to support hospitals and health care facilities during the COVID-19 omicron variant surge. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — A dozen members of the West Virginia Army and Air National Guard received a heartfelt send-off Friday from employees of WVU Medicine Camden Clark, where the soldiers have been working for the last month-and-a-half.

According to Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Liz King, members have done “anything and everything” to assist at the hospital since being stationed there in late January to provide aid during the COVID-19 surge caused by the highly contagious omicron variant.

“We actually filled many slots,” said King, one of only two members of the contingent with experience in a medical setting. “Most of these people, it’s brand new to them.”

Friday was the last day of the Guard’s support mission, which saw nearly 350 dispatched to 38 hospitals and health care facilities throughout the state.

“They’ve helped provide support everywhere from nursing units to dietary to security,” said Janice Midcap, WVU Medicine Camden Clark’s chief experience officer. “That’s really allowed us to continue doing what we do.”

Sister June Souder, manager of pastoral care at WVU Medicine Camden Clark, prays a blessing over the hands of West Virginia Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Kameron Gilbert during a luncheon thanking a dozen Guard members for their work at the hospital since being stationed there in late January to assist during the most recent COVID-19 surge. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

King delivered oxygen throughout the hospital, while some of her fellow soldiers cleaned offices, interacted with patients at front desks, rolled silverware in napkins and sat with patients who couldn’t be left by themselves. Midcap said that work has been much appreciated.

“Our employees have just sung their praises,” she said.

Michelle Gillespie, assistant vice president for human resources, said their presence has been uplifting for patients and workers alike.

“It’s been an amazing experience and absolutely wonderful,” she said.

That message was received loud and clear by the Guard even before Friday’s luncheon in their honor.

Members of the West Virginia Army and Air National Guard are applauded by WVU Medicine Camden Clark employees Friday, the last day they were stationed at the hospital. The soldiers have been working in a variety of roles since late January as part of a mission to support hospitals and health care facilities during the COVID-19 omicron variant surge. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

“This assignment has been something different and special in terms of how we’ve been appreciated,” King said. “There wasn’t a day that I wasn’t just thanked by hospital staff.”

That included Friday, when more than 100 staff members lined a corridor from the hospital’s North Tower to the South, applauding the soldiers, waving flags and holding signs expressing their gratitude.

“They just were a blessing and a sign of hope,” said Sister June Souder, manager of pastoral care services.

Souder prayed a blessing over the hands of each Guard member at the close of Friday’s luncheon.

The omicron surge has broken in recent weeks with active cases of COVID-19 declining around the state. As of Friday, Camden Clark had 23 COVID-19 patients admitted. One month earlier, there were 61.

Employees of WVU Medicine Camden Clark await the arrival of members of the West Virginia Army and Air National Guard on Friday, the soldiers’ final day providing support at the hospital. (Photo Provided)

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

Elizabeth Bennett, registered nurse for employee health at WVU Medicine Camden Clark, speaks during a luncheon Friday at the hospital to thank members of the West Virginia Army and Air National Guard for their service at the hospital over the last month-and-a-half . (Photo Provided)

A banner thanking members of the West Virginia Army and Air National Guard for their work over the last month-and-a-half hangs at a luncheon in their honor Friday at WVU Medicine Camden Clark. (Photo Provided)

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