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‘Hometown Hero’ takes flight with USAF Thunderbirds

Rochester, N.Y. – This weekend, many in our area will be watching the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds soar at the 2019 Rochester International Airshow.

But on Friday, one local veteran had the chance to fly with the Thunderbirds.

At each town or city they visit, the Thunderbirds like to honor a local “Hometown Hero”. For their Rochester show, they honored veteran Matt Murray.

Murray served two tours of duty in Iraq with the U.S. Army and is now a veteran’s service officer.

Friday’s flight took him 10,000 feet in the air – going at speeds as fast as nine G’s.

“It was fast and intense,” Murray said. “I think he said, right after we took off, it was immediately six G’s. It felt like, within five seconds, I looked down and we had to be about 4,000 feet off the ground.”

Major Jason Markzon says the flight also included loops and pulls.

“We like to just give back to those folks who really go above and beyond, give back to the communities, do just great things,” he said, “and Matt exemplifies that.”

“He knows what it takes – the service, the sacrifice, and all the training that goes into everything,” Markzon added. “So, to give him a little bit of different perspective on the Air Force side, for an Army guy, it’s just a wonderful opportunity for both of us to be able to do that.”

Murray said he wasn’t sure about the title of “Hometown Hero.”

“When people refer to yourself as a hero, I don’t look at myself as a hero,” said Murray. “I lost a lot of friends over there, and they’re the heroes, the ones that didn’t come home.”

But, he said, his flight with the Thunderbirds was something he’ll never forget.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know how these pilots do it, I really don’t,” he said. “I spent five years in the Army, I had two tours in Iraq, but that was – you almost can’t explain it.”

You can catch the Thunderbirds’ show Saturday and Sunday at the Greater Rochester International Airport.