Minnesotan becomes first Air Guard nurse to receive national honor
The Distinguished Flying Cross Medal is the nation's highest award for aerial achievement.
The Distinguished Flying Cross Medal is the nation's highest award for aerial achievement. On Saturday, a Minnesota National Guard member will be the first Air Guard flight nurse to receive the honor.
In August 2021, Air Force Major Katie Lunning and her team administered care to 22 patients during a flight. They were critically injured at the Kabul airport by a suicide bomb blast.
She hadn't slept for 50 hours before the flight, but Lunning said her focus was on the injured.
"My team, we all have kids. So we all wanted to be back with our kids. And we talked about that is how all of these people have family too,” the Hastings native said. “And so we were going to do everything we could to make sure that they arrived as safely as possible to get back to their families."
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All the injured survived the eight-hour flight to Germany.
Lunning said she loves being a nurse and is grateful that her profession has been recognized with the award. She will be the first Air Guard flight nurse to receive the prestigious medal.
“I’m very proud that nursing had the opportunity to receive this award,” Lunning said. “The award is pretty rare, obviously, for a nurse to receive it, so [I’m] grateful that they thought about nursing and the impact that nursing can have.”
Minnesota National Guard officials said Lunning’s “professional competence and aerial skill” was vital to saving lives.
Lunning works as an Intensive Care Unit nurse manager in the Central Iowa VA.
Air Force Gen. Michael Loh, director of the Air National Guard, will travel to Minnesota to present the honor to Lunning. Also in attendance will be her husband Josh, their daughter Addie and her parents.