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Flight of Honor participants in Raleigh, North Carolina are welcomed back by crowds

An Honor Flight is conducted by non-profit organizations dedicated to transporting as many United States military veterans as possible to see the memorials of the respective war(s) they fought in Washington, D.C. at no cost to the veterans. Currently these organizations are focused on bringing veterans of World War II to the National World War II Memorial, and any veteran with a terminal illness to see the memorial of the war they fought in. Organizers plan to "naturally transition" their programs to focus on veterans of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and subsequent wars as the veterans of those wars get older.[1][2]

The veterans on the honor flights are escorted by volunteer guardians, who help them on the flight and around D.C.. The flights arrive in any of Washington's three area airports: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, and Washington Dulles International Airport. Southwest Airlines is the official commercial airline of the Honor Flight Network, though the network utilizes many national airlines.[3] An honor flight of 100 people, including veterans and volunteers, costs about $30,000, which is covered by donations with assistance from the airline.[4]

Honor Flight Network[edit | edit source]

The Honor Flight Network is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which works as an umbrella organization with local chapters and various subgroups. The network was cofounded by Jeff Miller, a small business owner from Hendersonville, North Carolina, and Earl Morse, a physician assistant and retired Air Force captain. Morse worked in a Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Springfield, Ohio, where he saw many patients who were WWII veterans. After the National WWII Memorial in Washington was completed in 2004, he asked many of his veteran patients if they were going to see it, and most said yes. "I would see my World War II veterans some three, six months later," Morse said, "and I’d ask them if they’d gone to see it. Three hundred of them, and not one of them had been to it. Reality set in. They were never going."[5] Morse offered to fly with two veterans to Washington to see the memorial, and after seeing them break down and cry and graciously accept the offer, he pitched his idea to a local aeroclub of 300 private pilots at a local Air Force base, proposing that the pilots would pay for the flights for the veterans to Washington and personally escort them around the city. Eleven volunteered, and the network was formed; by 2005, a board was formed, funds were raised, and volunteers had joined.[2]

The first honor flight took place in May 2005, when six small planes flew 12 veterans to Washington. Due to high participation, the program began using commercial flights. At the end of 2005, the program had transported 137 veterans to the memorial. In late 2005, Jeff Miller, a dry cleaning company owner in Hendersonville, North Carolina, inspired by Morse's vision, had a similar idea but on a larger scale. Miller, the son of a World War II veteran and nephew of a B-24 bomber pilot who died in the war, had been a charter member of the National World War II Memorial Foundation. Like Morse, Miller lamented that many WWII veterans would be unable to visit the memorial. The seed that Morse had planted grew to a veritable forest of volunteerism, fundraising and goodwill toward the Greatest Generation veterans, who had been too busy building their communities to demand recognition for wartime service. On Sept. 23 and 24 and Nov. 4, 2006, HonorAir flew more than 300 WWII veterans from the Asheville airport to Washington, free of charge. HonorAir provided everything: a medical doctor and several EMTs, guardians who would attend to the needs of three to four veterans each, tour buses to take them the World War II Memorial and other national memorials, and a box lunch. Ticket agents and passengers lined the ropes as veterans emerged from the charter jets into the terminal. The veterans who had patriotically lifted their hands to their hearts many times in the 61 years since the war ended had never seen anything like the hero's reception they received in Washington. "CBS Sunday Morning" aired a moving feature about the HonorAir effort in September 2006. Geist updated the story in 2007 because it was a story that was so important to him.

The Springfield group and HonorAir soon merged to form the Honor Flight Network.[5] Honor Flight Network says that as of November 2010 it has transported 63,292 veterans of WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War to Washington.[2] Both Jeff Miller and Earl Morse were awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal for their extensive work with the program. As of 2012, the Honor Flight Network is headquartered in Springfield, Ohio and has expanded to include 114 chapters.[6]

Triangle Flight of Honor[edit | edit source]

Thousands turn out at a Triangle Flight of Honor return celebration at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport in April 2012

In additional to Honor Flight Network affiliated organizations, similar but independent organizations organize similar flights for veterans in their area. The Triangle Flight of Honor has organized 8 flights each serving over 100 veterans originating from Raleigh Durham International Airport and concluding with a "Heros Welcome" return with marching bands, local celebrities, and attended by thousands of family, friends and area residents.[7][8]

Honor Flight DFW[edit | edit source]

Honor Flight DFW flies World War II veterans to the memorial from North Texas, or the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The project is promoted by Mrs. Texas International, Rachel Hedstrom, and Plano businessman, Craig Keeland. Keeland donated $10,000 to the project.[9]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

  • Honor Flight, 2012 film about World War II veterans and a community.

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