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'More than a trip': Honor flight founders reflect on its impact

(Courtesy:{ }Honor Flight Network)
(Courtesy: Honor Flight Network)
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Across the country, people have heard of Honor Flight. It’s an all-expenses-paid trip for America’s Veterans to Washington, D.C., so they can visit the memorials dedicated to honoring those who have served and sacrificed.

The two founders of the Honor Flight Network, Earl Morse and Jeff Miller, have seen the impacts of the program first-hand and said it is much more than a trip. It’s a chance for our heroes to remember lost friends, a chance to heal, and a chance to share stories.

Morse, an Airforce Veteran, came up with the idea of Honor Flight and put it into action sixteen years ago.

“My passion for veterans started with my father and my uncle. My father is a Korean War and a Vietnam veteran, and my uncle is a Vietnam veteran. A helicopter pilot shot down twice in Vietnam, so finally in May of 2004 when they dedicated the World War II Memorial, I was working at a VA clinic in Springfield, Ohio and I had about 300 of my patients were World War II veterans who had waited 60 years to have a memorial,” Morse said.

Once they finally had their own memorial, I was giving them all a high five saying ‘Hey, congratulations! What do you think about that?’ and every one of them said I wish my friends would have lived long enough to see their memorial and I said, ‘What about you? Are you going to see your memorial?’ and every single one of them thought that they would go see it. Like a family member would take them of the VFW, AMVETS, but because they were my patients at the VA Clinic, I would see them every three months every six months. Not one of the 300 veterans what were World War II had been to the memorial and reality set in they were never going to see the memorial.

Miller said his passion to serve veterans also stems from his family.

“My father was a World War II veteran, my mother lost one brother in World War II,” he said. “I have a real need to serve the ones that have served me, that’s given me my opportunities and that’s the drive.”

Morse said he wanted to make sure veterans did not pay a penny for the trip and they wanted them to be taken care of the entire time.

“My military background gave me an enduring respect for all veterans, but there was always something different than the World War II and my encounters with them while in the military. First of all, I started off as a medic and I was a flight medic, I flew air medical evacuation all around the world so envisioning this program when people would say you can’t put 80 and 90-year-olds on an airplane and fly them across the United States, I’d laugh and say I’ve done it professionally for ten years. Flying combat wounded and ill veterans and active-duty personnel. So, number one I know it’s doable, and number two they deserve this,” Morse said.

Morse and Miller said starting the Honor Flight Network has been an amazing journey and with every trip comes a new experience.

“Jeff and I both know the reverence that we have for this generation, for all of our veterans and the admiration runs deep, to our core, and when you notice that hundreds of people everywhere feel the same way that we do, it’s exhilarating when they get off the plane in Washington, D.C. and there are hundreds of people thunderous applause for these veterans and the veterans will take you aside and say, ‘I had no idea that this many people cared about what we’ve done.’ To help facilitate that, there is no greater feeling on the planet,” Morse said.

Morse and Miller said they like to think they’ve brought all World War II veterans on Honor Flight who were able to do. Now the focus with the Honor Flight Network is Vietnam War veterans and Korean War veterans.

“The bonding that goes on at these things is way beyond what you see in the photographs and the trips,” Miller said.

Honor Flight Network has postponed trips through August 15, 2021,in response to COVID-19. Miller said his next trip is planned for September.

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Honor Flight participants with questions about their individual trip could contact their local Honor Flight hub.

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