From Humble Beginnings…
Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, Inc. was started in 2008 by Joe Dean after Dean had seen a brief national news segment on the National Honor Flight Network. He was inspired to bring this program to Southeastern Wisconsin. Within days, wheels were in motion.
The Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, Inc. story was told one person, one small group at a time, and grew from tiny fundraisers to partnerships with many local businesses, organizations, and individuals, who have all stepped forward to ensure that our WWII, Korean and Vietnam War veterans feel appreciated.
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.
Every Day is a Bonus.