Working as a physician assistant at a Springfield, Ohio clinic for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Morse talked to World War II veterans frequently. Upon completion of the WWII Memorial in 2004, he hoped these veterans would visit him with fresh stories about their trip to Washington, D.C. to see their memorial. But these veterans, often in their 80s, lacked the resources needed to make the trip.
Earl Morse wouldn’t stand for it.
Morse, a retired Air Force Captain and member of an elite aero club at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, knew there was a way to honor these veterans. So Honor Flight, a nonprofit organization, took off. Morse created two standards for Honor Flight. The first is that pilots cover the cost of air travel, and the second asks that the pilots escort the veterans around the Capitol. By the beginning of 2005, Morse had 11 fellow pilots—who never met any of Morse’s patients—agree to participate.
Almost 36,000 WWII veterans had traveled to Washington free of charge by the end of November 2009. The organization attributes its successes to a number of events. In 2006, Honor Flight merged efforts with HonorAir located in Hendersonville, North Carolina and founded by Jeff Miller. Southwest Airlines donated thousands of tickets in May 2008, thus expanding Honor Flight’s presence nationwide.
Honor Flight now has more than 70 flying hubs in more than 30 states. Honor Flight plans to honor veterans from all wars, not just WWII. Top priority goes to the eldest veterans and those with terminal illness. The organization will focus on getting veterans from the Korean, Vietnam and other wars to their memorials in chronological order.
Donations can be made online, or via snail mail. Honor Flight’s mailing address can be found on their website. All donations are tax deductible and fund veterans’ trips to Washington to visit their respective memorials.
Veterans can print, complete and mail in the application. Family and friends of veterans are encouraged to do so, too. More information about Honor Flight is available on Honor Flight’s website, via e-mail or by calling (937) 521-2400.
Photo thanks to Bernt Rostad under creative common license on Flickr