Thunderbirds honor Miami Valley men who saved lives

Dayton Air Show

VANDALIA, Ohio (WDTN) – The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds continued their tradition of honoring hometown heroes with a ride in their jets on Friday. During the team’s performing season, heroes at each of their demonstration stops are chosen to sit in the passenger seat.

On Friday, Captain Brian Seidenschmidt with Dayton Airport Fire and Rescue was named a hometown hero for his bravery two years ago. One of the Thunderbirds’ jets crashed during the 2017 Dayton Air Show. One airmen was injured but there were no fatalities. Seidenschmidt was credited for leading the life-saving rescue efforts.

Seidenschmidt said he was in denial that he would be taking the flight until he was in the passenger seat of the plan. His 45-minute flight was personal for the team.

“He’s been instrumental to us as a team and getting us flying again.  I couldn’t think of anything better to do,” Col. Lt. Eric Gorney, the Thunderbirds operations officer and Seidenschmidt’s pilot said.

Seidenschmidt said he’s no hero. He was just doing his job when he rescued the injured airmen.

“Were paid to do it. It’s not just me as a hero. It takes a whole group. I’m no good by myself. It takes all of us those people to do. I wish we could all fly and ride but I gladly stepped up and took that opportunity.”

The Thunderbirds also had a personal connection to a second honoree on Friday. Levi Dalton is a firefighter and EMT with the Xenia Fire Department. In February, he was off duty when his 17-month-old neighbor went into cardiac arrest. Dalton’s quick response to help the girl saved her life.

Dalton said, “It all happened pretty fast and I’m just thankful for the outcome.  Nothing was really running through my head. You just do what you have to do.”

Major Jason Markzon was Dalton’s pilot said he often feel like he can relate to first responders who he takes for a ride.

“There’s so much similar training that goes on between military, law enforcement and firefighters. So, there’s definitely a special connection that we have,” Dalton said.

After his flight, Dalton said he felt flying with the Thunderbirds gave him a bigger adrenaline rush than running into a burning building.

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