What is “Honor?” Merriam Webster identifies it both as a noun and a verb. Regardless of how it is used, there seems to be a common theme here. Terms like "reputation," "recognition," "privilege," "respect" and "integrity" are prevalent.
“A showing of usually merited respect,” also known as "recognition" is the definition used when describing the military veteran. Unfortunately, many of the veterans that served in different military branches did not receive this respect or recognition for their service. The days of ticker tape parades seemed to quickly turn into protests and marches. Veterans were portrayed very poorly and treated even worse when they returned from war. The sad thing is that those individuals exercising their freedoms were using them against the ones that fought and died to ensure those freedoms were there.
Fortunately, times are in the process of changing. Memorials/Monuments were being built in Washington DC in recognition of all who served. The year 2004 marked the completion of the World War II memorial, but for many this happened too late. It has been estimated that over 600 World War II veterans die each day. For others, the cost of travel prohibited their ability to visit the memorials. This was unacceptable to one Springfield, Ohio-based Department of Veterans Affairs physician's assistant. Prior to starting his second career with VA, Earl Morse was a captain in the U.S. Air Force and a pilot. What if we flew these vets to Washington D.C. in our own planes, showed them the sights and brought them back home? Eleven other pilots from Earl’s local aero club agreed and on May 21, 2005, six planes carrying 12 veterans took off for Washington D.C. This trip was done at absolutely no cost to the veteran. Honor Flight was born and in the first year had the privilege of transporting 126 World War II vets.
While all of this was happening in Ohio, a small business owner, Jeff Miller in North Carolina took it to the next level, utilizing commercial aircraft. Jeff named his program “Honor Air” and by the time 2006 drew to a close had transported over 300 WWII Veterans. Honor Flight and Honor Air were merged into a single entity that is now called "The Honor Flight Network." As 2017 drew to a close, The Honor Flight Network has been able to send over 200,000 veterans to visit their memorials. And don’t forget that this is all done at absolutely no cost to the veteran. Each veteran is assigned a “guardian” who is there to ensure that all the needs of the veterans are taken care of properly. Activities such as pushing a wheelchair, carrying luggage and being a friend are just a few of the duties of the guardian.
I recently had the privilege of being my dad’s guardian during the October mission out of the Central Coast California hub. I was not sure of what to expect, but I went with an open mind. The process started with an orientation and training luncheon. Staff made introductions and conducted necessary training. Our mission would encompass three days and two nights. Accommodations were five-star, food was great and the sites were well-choreographed. It was evident that the volunteers did this because they enjoyed it and believed in what Honor Flight stood for.
The bottom line is: if you are a Veteran - sign up. It is easy to do. Visit the Honor Flight website: www.honorflight.org or call them at (937) 521-2400 to find the hub nearest you and complete a “veteran application.” Once submitted, all applicants are sorted, reviewed and put in to the queue by priority (age, health conditions, etc.). If you are willing to be a guardian, complete the “guardian application”. A quick note: the guardian is responsible for all costs associated with his/her mission to include travel and lodging, but take it from me - it is well worth it!
Another important aspect of the Honor Flight Network is the contributor and sponsor. All these missions are paid for by funds collected from local and national businesses, corporations and individuals like you and me. Honor Flight is a federal, nonprofit, 501 (c) 3 organization meaning the donations are tax deductible. To find the hub near you, visit: https://www.honorflight.org/regional-honor-flight-hubs/. It is only through your donations and support of these local hubs, that the mission can be carried out.
The Honor Flight Network’s mission statement sums it all up:
To transport America’s veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit those memorials dedicated to honor the service and sacrifices of themselves and their friends.