Every day, hundreds of veterans from World War II pass away, never getting the chance to be recognized for their contribution to the country.
But thanks to the Honor Flight Network, more and more of these veterans are getting a chance to take a trip out to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials dedicated to the service of the thousands of men and women who fought for the world we live in today.
The Honor Flight Network came about when Earl Morse, a retired Air Force Captain who works as a physician’s assistant in Springfield, OH, kept treating WWII veterans at work. He asked many of them if they had visited the memorial dedicated to them in Washington and time and time again was disappointed to learn that they had not.
Of the veterans in the country, the WWII vets are the oldest and far too many passed away before ever getting the chance to see the memorial dedicated to them in 2004. As the days go by, more and more of these vets pass away without making it out to see it.
Knowing this, Morse decided to do something about it.
He presented an idea to the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH where he is a member and asked fellow pilots if they would be interested in footing the $600-$1,200 bill to fly veterans out to the memorial.
Right off the bat, 11 members agreed to do it.
Word spread quickly about the trips to the memorial. Jeff Miller in Hendersonville, NC found out about Honor Flight and he took it upon himself to make it an even bigger operation.
Miller managed to get funding so that commercial airliners could be used to fly several veterans to the memorial at one time. Since he got the idea from Morse, they decided to combine their efforts and created the Honor Flight Network.
Not long after the first private jets went to the memorial, commercial airliners took their spots and soon 71 hubs in 30 states popped up so that veterans all over the country could take part in the trips.
To make things even better, Southwest Airlines donated thousands of free tickets to the program and is its official commercial carrier.
Because all veterans deserve to be recognized for their efforts, Honor Flights are available to veterans of other wars providing they are fighting terminal illnesses.
This goes along with Honor Flight’s prevailing message that time is of the essence, meaning that the veterans are not getting any younger and so it is of the utmost importance to make sure they make it out to their memorials before their time in this world is over.
By the end of 2011, more than 81,000 veterans of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam visited their memorials.
While the trips to the nation’s capital are not long – in fact, the trips last just one day. Veterans generally fly out in the morning with a guardian and come back the same night. They are given free meals, a t-shirt, wheelchairs when necessary, and most of all, the respect they deserve.
It also gives them the chance to connect with people who are just like them and sometimes, they even get to come to terms with what they experienced.
One man who served in the Navy during WWII said when he went out to the memorial, he thought about his best friend who was only 19 when he was killed in the war.
Tears came to the man’s eyes when he remembered what it was like being a young man and losing his best friend in a bloody battle in Europe. But he said going to the memorial provided made him feel like he was connecting with his old friend and putting to bed the memory of what it was like to lose him all those years ago.
Because many veterans pass away before ever getting the chance to take an Honor Flight, the program works with families so that their deceased loved ones can still make it to the memorial in some fashion. The program asks that families of veterans supply them with a photo of the veteran and the flag presented during his or her funeral. Officials with Honor Flight will take the photo and flag to the memorial and take a picture for the family.
This gesture shows the level of respect the officials behind Honor Flight have for veterans and offers a final homage to fallen soldiers.
For more information about Honor Flight or to register for a flight, visit HonorFlight.org.
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