By Triad Honor Flight
As a nation, we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those selfless and courageous men and women who served during WWII, we refer to them as ‘The Greatest Generation’. Following in their footsteps were the men and women who took up that mantle in the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam conflict, and the young warriors who served this country during Operation Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
The young men and women who defended our country, the families who awaited their return at home, and our allies during those times in history are the best among us.
Honoring those who remain is the mission of the Triad Honor Flight Organization. They do that by flying veterans on an all-expense paid trip to our nation’s capital to visit the war memorials that have been erected in their honor and to memorialize those lost on the battlefield.
The National World War II Memorial opened in 2004, but for many of those veterans, getting to the memorial was not easy. Retired Air Force Captain Earl Morse, at that time a physician assistant in Springfield, OH, noticed that patients who served in WWII loved talking about the new Memorial, but were constrained from seeing it by their age, health, and finances.
In early 2005, Captain Morse flew several veterans in his own plane to see their Memorial and the tremendous impact that trip had on those veterans inspired Captain Morse to recruit other pilots to do the same. He took his idea to the Wright Patterson Air Force Base Flying Club, with 11 pilots immediately signing up to help in the effort to get these cherished veterans to see these magnificent memorials, the Honor Flight was launched. Within a year, there was a growing list of WWII veterans, prompting Honor Flight to begin flying on commercial airlines to accommodate as many as possible. As of today, over 1,300 Triad-based WWII veterans have been honored with a flight to our nation’s capital.
In 2020, a new hub of the Honor Flight network was formed by Alison Huber, passionate about honoring those who have served. Alison had a unique opportunity to fly to DC to meet her dad, who was being honored on an Honor Flight from Ohio. Alison returned from her trip feeling that it had changed her life and so she began the arduous task of reforming Triad Honor Flight Hub, which had been dormant for several years. After many months, days, and hours with a team of passionate volunteers, the group received their sanction from Honor Flight National and were awarded a non-profit (c)(3) designation to serve those who fought in WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam between the ages of 65-100.
Jackie Kohler, of Triad Honor Flights Board of Directors, said, “Those who served are very dear to me. I am the granddaughter of a WWI veteran, serving in the Italian Army, the daughter of a career Naval officer, with 30 years of service, and the widow of a retired Navy Commander with 33 years of service, and an Army veteran myself, as well as the mother of two combat wounded/medically retired Marines with multiple tours in Iraq. I believe there is no greater honor than to give back to those who have given so much to our country. May we always remember that we live in ‘The home of the free because of the brave.’”
The Triad Honor Flight flew their first mission to Washington, DC, on November 11, 2021, Veterans Day, with 90 veterans and 90 guardians, along with a medical staff, and a team of volunteers! Since that time, they have staged 2 more missions.
On the day of the flight, the veterans fly to Washington, DC, with their guardians, medical staff, bus captains and a tour guide. The group travels with a police escort through the city to visit the War memorial, erected in their honor. “Many of our vets have never been to Washington, DC. Since we have veterans from several wars, we spend time at each of the memorials honoring the individual war, then we have a catered lunch, lay wreaths, and celebrate these wonderful men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States military, whether it be in times of war or peace,” said Jackie. There are so many memories made during Honor Flight trips and veterans say their time in Washington, DC along with their fellow veterans was ‘the trip of a lifetime.’
To make these trips possible, donations are needed as are volunteers. “Veterans fly for free; there is a cost for guardians of $600. We currently have a waiting list of several hundred people who want to be guardians and an equal number of veterans waiting for a seat. Our second flight was on April 27, 2022, and the third was on October 12, 2022. Veterans can be sponsored for a donation of $600, which covers the cost of the flight, insurance, and the day in DC,” Jackie commented.
Triad Honor Flight welcomes both donations/corporate sponsorships, as well as donations from the private sector, and all funds are used exclusively for the Honor Flight. There are no salaries paid to the Board Members, staff, or volunteers.
If you would like more information on Triad Honor Flight, visit www.triadhonorflight.org and find us on FaceBook at Triad Honor Flight.