Stars and Stripes Honor Flight Inc. is a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization and a registered 501(c)3. The mission of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight is to honor all veterans by flying WWII, Korean War and terminally ill veterans from other conflicts to Washington, DC to visit their memorials. We actively promote educational aspects of this mission in our schools and our communities. Accountability and transparency are important to us.
From Humble Beginnings…
Stars and Stripes Honor Flight Inc. was started in 2008 by Joe Dean and a merry band of volunteers, after Dean had seen a brief national news segment (See National Honor Flight Story below). Joe recalls thinking, “someone should do this in Wisconsin.” The next day Dean, son of a WWII Hero (David Dean, US Navy), woke up with one overwhelming thought: “Oh man, I should do this in Wisconsin!”
Within days, the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight wheels were in motion. Recruiting the busiest people he knew, Dean asked each potential board member three questions: “Why not here?” “Why not us?” “Why not now?”. The Stars and Stripes Honor Flight Board of Directors became a reality and the board booked the first flight at their second meeting, with a grand total of $250.00 in the bank. The Stars and Stripes Honor Flight story was told one person, one small group at a time, and grew from tiny fundraisers to partnerships with many local organizations and individuals, who have all stepped forward to ensure that our WWII and Korean War Veterans feel appreciated. To date, Stars and Stripes Honor Flight has flown over 4,500 veterans. Our community has been phenomenal in its support, and we are forever grateful.
The National Honor Flight Network
The Honor Flight Network program was conceived by Earl Morse, a physician assistant and retired Air Force Captain. Earl was working at a VA clinic in Ohio when then the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C was finally completed and dedicated in May of 2004. Earl repeatedly asked his veteran patients if they would ever travel out to visit their memorial. But, for most of these senior heroes in their eighties, it simply wasn’t financially or physically possible for them to make the journey on their own.
That’s when Earl decided to do something to help. In addition to being a physician assistant, Earl was also a private pilot and a member of one of our nation’s largest and best aero clubs located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. In December of 2004, Earl asked one of his World War II veteran patients if it would be all right if Earl personally flew him out to D.C., free of charge, to visit his memorial. Mr. Loy broke down and cried. He told Earl that at his age he would probably never get to see his memorial otherwise, and graciously accepted the offer.
Earl posed the same question to a second World War II veteran a week later. He, too, cried and enthusiastically accepted the trip. It didn’t take long for Earl to realize that there were many veterans who would have the same reaction. So he started asking for help from other pilots to make these dreams a reality. There were two major stipulations to his request. The first was that the veterans pay nothing. The entire aircraft rental ($600 to $1200 for the day) would have to be paid solely by the pilots. The second was that the pilots personally escort the veterans around D.C. for the entire day. Eleven pilots who had never met his patients stepped up to volunteer. And Honor Flight was born.
In May of 2005, six small planes flew 12 very happy veterans out to the World War II Memorial. The responses from both the veterans and the pilots were overwhelming. By the end of the first year, Honor Flight had transported 137 World War II veterans to their memorial.
Stars and Stripes Honor Flight
Left to Right: Joel Skrzypchak, Amy Luft, Brad Hoeft, Paula Nelson, Dr. Ted O’Reilly, Karyn Roelke, Christy Julius
Paula Nelson, President
Director of Human Resources, TJ Hale
“I am grateful for the opportunity to honor and thank our WWII and Korean War Veterans in a way that is meaningful and memorable to them. I do this in memory of my father, Paul Sebranek, a WWII veteran, and to thank my brothers, David, Steve and Gary, for their service in Vietnam.”
Brad Hoeft, Past-President
Attorney/Shareholder, ANTOINE, HOEFT, EBERHARDT S.C. , Port Washington, WI
“It is such a great privilege to have the opportunity to honor our veterans who have sacrificed so much to preserve our freedom. My personal involvement is a tribute to and in memory of my grandfather, Louis G. Quader, who served during WWII as a flight instructor in the Army Air Forces.”
Amy Luft, 1st Vice President
Sales & Marketing Manager, Comfort Keepers Grafton/Americanism Chair, State of WI American Legion Auxiliary
“I have a passion for honoring our veterans. My work is in tribute to my late father Robert Akright, who was a WWII veteran and charter member of the building of the WWII Memorial in Washington DC.”
Dr. Ted O’Reilly, 2nd Vice President
Family Medicine, Aurora-Advanced Health Care, Chief Medical Officer, Aurora Medical Center Grafton
“To me, it’s all about the vets. These brave and proud Americans stepped up and secured the freedoms and liberties we enjoy today. It’s truly a pleasure and honor to serve and thank these heroes.”
Karyn Roelke, Vice President Public Relations
“Getting to know our WWII veterans and Korean War veterans has been an honor and a privilege. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to thank these heroes in some small way.”
Joel Skrzypchak, Treasurer
Senior Analyst – Kohl’s Department Stores
It’s an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to serve on the board and pay tribute to our many veterans. I volunteer in remembrance of my grandfathers John Skrzypchak (Army) and Edward Snopl (Navy).
Board of Directors
Back Row – Debbie Kliese, Christopher Charney, Chad Knutson, Nicholas Bandoch, Jim Kliese, Kent Rice, John Mercure, Steve Schmechel, Laura Rinaldi
Front Row – Karyn Roelke, Joel Skrzypchak, Amy Luft, Paula Nelson, Dr. Ted O’Reilly, Christy Julius, Brad Hoeft
Not Pictured: Barb Burja, Marge Meyers, Dr. Chris Budny
Communications Director – Sendik’s Food Markets
“We cannot quantify the gratitude we owe these brave men and women. I’m honored to try and meet the challenge of providing them the day of honor and thanks they so rightfully deserve.”
Dr. Chris Budny
Internal Medicine Physician/Cedar Mills Medical Group – Cedarburg
“It is an honor and privilege to help recognize those who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom we enjoy today.”
Undergraduate Records Coordinator, College of Health Sciences, Marquette University
“My personal involvement is a tribute to a neighbor, Bob Kressin, who flew on the second flight with SSHF – he proudly wore his jacket 24/7 afterward! I could only imagine that my late father, Lawrence Burja, a Korean War Veteran, would be right here volunteering with me!”
Registered Nurse/ProHealth Care-Waukesha Memorial Hospital
“It is a privilege to serve as a volunteer on the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight team as a tribute to my dad (a WWII veteran) and all of the other veterans whose sacrifice and courage ensured our freedom and gave us the world as we know it today. This program is one small way we can recognize and thank these heroes.”
Retired Engineering Manager, QuadTech
“These heroes we honor saved the world and enabled it to be what it is today. This program is the least we can do to honor their sacrifices and devotion to country”
Virtual Design Construction – Division Leader, Gilbane Building Company
“I’m excited to give older Veterans the recognition and the honor that they earned through their service and sacrifices. It’s an honor to be part of a day that changes the rest of their lives”
Host, Wisconsin’s Afternoon News, 620 WTMJ
“It is an honor to work for the selfless men and women who gave so much fighting for our freedoms around the world. Two of my grand fathers bravely served and this is a way for me to more deeply connect with them and the courageous soldiers, sailors, and airmen they served with.”
Elementary School Teacher and Principal, retired
“My father and most of my uncles served in WW II and had their lives shaped by that experience. Being part of SSHF is my way of paying tribute to them and to all the men and women who ensured our freedom with their sacrifice and service.”
Home Inspector, Helicopter pilot and Army veteran
“My father was a WWII veteran and my grandfather a WWI veteran. I have had the opportunity to meet and talk with many fascinating American war heroes through my involvement with Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. I am thrilled to be a part of honoring these brave men and women who gave so much to insure the freedom we all enjoy today.”
VA Medical Center, Milwaukee
My Dad is a WWII Veteran, and I’ve been working at Milwaukee VA Medical Center for 43 years – so my heart has always been with the American military. SSHF is a natural fit for me and I look forward to doing what I can to help complete their very noble mission.
Manager of Integration Solutions, MSI Data
“Throughout my time with Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, I have met many amazing people. Seeing them use their talents to make a positive impact on the lives of others, while still struggling with the demands of their own lives, clearly reveals the strength of character they possess. That character, along with their creativity and “anything is possible” attitude inspires me want to make an impact and to help honor America’s veterans who have given so much of themselves for all of us.”
Founder of SSHF: Joe Dean