MEMPHIS, Tennessee — In military camo fatigues - side by side with those in blue hospital scrubs - the Tennessee National Guard is masked up and on a mission at Memphis area hospitals.
"It just makes me swell up on the inside to say hey, I'm making a difference, we are all making a difference," Clarrissa Richardson with the Tennessee National Guard said.
Around 70 guard members are now spread out across four area Baptist and Methodist hospitals, providing invaluable assistance to medical teams stretched and strained like never before.
"We are truly in a crisis and if everyone doesn't get the vaccine the numbers are going to still go up more so," Richardson added.
"I was thrilled, I was elated, we need all the help we can get these days, we are glad to have the National Guard here helping us out," Baptist Collierville ER Manager Patrick Macdonnchadh said.
National Guard members can start IV's, check heart monitors or simply be at the right place at the right time.
"That can just simply pass life saving supplies to the nurse or frees up the nurse by passing a meal tray to the patient or answering a call light," Dr. Cassandra Howard with Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare said.
For Dr. Howard, the National Guard hospital presence is especially personal.
She's a 33-year member herself and promoted to brigadier general in 2019 and said a special thank you to members during Monday's orientation.
"You felt this sense that the cavalry had arrived," Dr. Howard said. "They're walking away from their family and civilian occupation to answer the call for assistance."
The Tennessee National Guard is expected to stay in the area between two and eight weeks.
They are also joining forces with the Memphis Fire Department to put more vaccine doses into arms and in the Methodist system, help out with monoclonal antibody infusion treatment.