The concept of Honor Flight came from Earl Morse, a physician assistant and retired Air Force major.
After his retirement in 1998, Morse was hired by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to work in a Springfield, Ohio, clinic.
When the National World War II Memorial opened in 2004, Morse asked some of his patients if they would ever travel to see it. Most thought they would with the help of a friend or family member.
When the veterans returned for follow-up visits the next year, Morse found out many of them did not make the trip. It became clear that physical difficulties and financial constraints would prevent them from ever seeing the memorial constructed in their honor.
The solution. As a private pilot and member of the aero club at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Morse decided there had to be some way to get the aging veterans to Washington D.C., if just for one day.
Early in 2005, he talked with 150 members of his aero club about the possibility of flying veterans to see their memorials. His plan had two major components: The pilots would pay for aircraft rental ($600-1,200) and they would personally escort the veterans around Washington D.C.
In May of that year, six pilots and 12 veterans headed to the nation’s capital on the country’s first Honor Flight.
As the year progressed, interest grew so much that commercial airplanes were used so more veterans could participate. More than 130 veterans were taken to Washington D.C. that year and since then, the program has grown steadily with similar programs beginning in North Carolina, Utah, Michigan and North Dakota.
Guardians. The Honor Flight veterans are escorted by guardians who pay their own way to help chaperone the trip. Guardians accompany veterans on the aircraft and around Washington D.C.
Some guardians are younger veterans. Some are family members of the Honor Flight participants.
And others, like 16-year-old Josh Roosa of Wadsworth, are simply volunteers who want to help.
“I really like it,” said Roosa, who was on his first Honor Flight. “It’s kind of neat to know what they went through and how we’re still here today.”
For Loren Parsons of New Philadelphia, being a guardian is an expression of gratitude.
“We respect you guys,” he told one veteran. “We know what you guys gave up for all of us.”
Nonprofit. Honor Flight is a nonprofit program that operates solely on donations. It receives no government funding and in order to get another Honor Flight out of the Akron-Canton Airport, more donations are needed.
Applications are accepted on a continuing, first-come, first-served basis. However, World War II veterans and terminally ill veterans receive the highest priority.
Flights, tour bus services, scooters, wheel chairs, oxygen and meals are free for all Honor Flight veterans.
STAY INFORMED. SIGN UP!
Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!