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Honoring our Veterans

by Joel Vedder on November 9th, 2015
We Honor Them

The phrase has captured the imagination ever since Tom Brokaw’s 1998 book of the same title. “The Greatest Generation” describes that generation which grew up during the Great Depression, went on to fight and support World War II, and returned home to build the nation through the 50s, 60s, and 70s. There’s something inherently reverential in the phrase, and many have recalled fathers, mother, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins and friends who played some role in the tumultuous and transformational decades of the mid-20th century. While part of the mystique of those who served in combat roles is their silent, stoic reserve about the horrors many of them faced in Europe and/or the Pacific, the effects of time, cinema and for some, perhaps a latent guilt about the treatment of vets returning from Vietnam has propelled a renewed sense of admiration and respect for veterans of
every generation.

Recently, while watching the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS, we could not help being moved by the stories of individuals and families affected by our nation’s wars. Closer to home, Bob Wolfe, (the co-writer of this post) had the opportunity to serve as a guardian for Honor Flight Dayton, the local chapter of the national Honor Flight program. I was also impacted by this program as I watched my father walk through the airport to cheers and fan fare from family, friends and a military band after his Honor Flight to DC. If you’re not familiar with this organization, please allow us to share first, the basics.

Founded in the Dayton Region

Honor Flight began in Springfield, OH, just outside Dayton, as the brainchild of Jeff Miller, a small business owner from North Carolina, and Earl Morse, a physician assistant and retired Air Force captain. Morse worked in a Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Springfield. Following the completion of the WWII memorial in Washington, DC in 2004, Morse had been asking his veteran patients if they might be making the trip to see this beautiful memorial. Months passed, and not a word from one of his patients that they’d made the trip.

Morse offered to take two veterans to Washington to see the memorial, and was moved by their level of appreciation. This led to him eventually seeking the help of 300 private pilots who were part of a private club at a local Air Force base. In time, those who responded to his request eventually formed the basis of a new organization, Honor Flight Dayton.

A Non Profit Organization to Admire

Eleven years later, this organization is now national and Honor Flight has taken – free of charge to the veterans – tens of thousands of WWII, Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf War veterans to see the WWII Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the statue honoring Iwo Jima, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, and other sites. Veterans are typically flown to Washington, each with a dedicated guardian.

There is a sense of urgency in the promotion and organization of these trips, of course, as many of the WWII veterans (most in their late 80s and 90s, are dying (over 600 a day). Having seen first-hand the range of emotions experienced by these vets, their loved ones, and their many, many well-wishers. We can tell you that Honor Flight is one of the best organizations we’ve ever known. The founders and countless volunteers began with a simple idea, overcame significant organizational, logistical and funding issues, and produced a program that has given thousands of veterans an opportunity to remember, to release, and to renew.

If you’re looking for “What works in America,” we invite you to learn more about Honor Flight by visiting www.honorflight.org. Do you know a vet you’d like to honor this year? May we humbly suggest Honor Flight?

Thank you to Bob Wolfe for his contribution to the writing of this post