Rancho Santa Fe resident helps orchestrate America’s Operation Thank You


An aerial relay from San Diego to Washington, D.C., to honor health care workers and other frontline responders fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, in a tribute titled “America’s Operation Thank You,” will begin with an opening ceremony on Sept. 23.

“The entire desire is really simple: lift the spirits, because these people deserve more than they’re getting,” said Richard Rovsek, a Rancho Santa Fe resident and founder of the Rancho Santa Fe-based nonprofit Spirit of Liberty Foundation.

America’s Operation Thank You will fly a “Spirit of Liberty Torch” all over the country in a relay of aircraft. Pilots taking part will each fly from one location to the next, handing off the torch and specially-designed flag to the next pilot. This process will continue across every state in the continental United States, ending in Washington, D.C., at the end of October, when there will be a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol and the White House.

There will also be proclamations of support from state governors, mayors and other dignitaries at the various relay stops leading up to the conclusion in Washington.

The relay was designed to be “a modern ticker tape parade” reminiscent of the parades held for U.S. military personnel after World War II,” according to a news release. Veterans from World War II, Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan and other points in U.S. military history will be honored as well.

Rovsek added that the doctors, nurses, orderlies and other medical personnel are “always so hard working and caring.”

The relay will include multiple other organizations that have helped recruit pilots and promote the cause.

Mark R. Baker, president and CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, said in a letter that the organization is “pleased to recognize” America’s Operation Thank You.

“We look forward to highlighting how the Spirit of Liberty Foundation’s and the San Diego Air and Space Museum’s ‘America’s Operation Thank You’ Relay is bringing America together to thank our Healthcare Heroes who have done so much to fight in the trenches to defeat the COVID-19 invisible enemy,” he wrote.

Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association, said in a letter that the organization was looking forward to the relay.

“The business aviation community has a long history of supporting relief efforts in times of crisis and has been working hard to aid in many initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he wrote. “NBAA would be proud to participate in the relay flying America’s Spirit of Liberty Torch and the Love Healthcare Heroes Flag across the United States.”

For more on the Spirit of Liberty Foundation, visit