This month’s community spotlight is about an organization that is near and dear to my heart. It only seems fitting with Veteran’s Day just around the corner to focus this month’s column on Honor Flight Northeast Indiana and their mission to transport veterans to Washington for the day to reflect upon the memorials that were built in their honor.
Honor Flight was founded in February 2006 by Earl Morse, a Physician’s Assistant. His inaugural flight, almost a year earlier, originated in Springfield, Ohio with 12 veterans, all in separate single prop planes flown by his pilot friends. The Honor Flight Network has since grown to 131 hubs in 45 states including Alaska. Indiana has four hubs; Indianapolis, Lafayette, Evansville and our Northeast Indiana hub.
Our Northeast Indiana hub was founded by Laura Carrico in 2008. She fervently wanted to take her father to Washington, D.C. but it wasn’t until May 13th, 2009 that her five member board of directors successfully flew 27 veterans from Fort Wayne to Washington, D.C. Although her father was not a part of that trip, he did have the chance to see his memorial.
As of our 26th flight on October 25th, 1,877 veterans will have participated in an Honor Flight through the Northeast Indiana hub. And many of them will state that it is the best day of their lives. It is a day where memories are relived, tears are shed, old relationships rekindled and new ones formed. And, stories that were buried for so many, for so long, are shared.
For Harrison Hull, seeing the Freedom wall at the World War Memorial with stars symbolizing over 400,000 Americans killed was a poignant reminder. For others, it is the handshakes they receive all day long, the cards and letters thanking them for their service or the jubilant welcome home they receive from their families, friends and neighbors that make the day unforgettable. The late Stan Freet whom I met during a chance encounter at my first flight, was so moved by his trip that he collected donations for his tin art and jigsaw puzzles to support Honor Flight.
What do I love most about this organization? There are many reasons I am passionate about Honor Flight but the fact that everyone who is involved as a volunteer is key. All 20 board members, including our President Dennis Covert, who recently retired and now Honor Flight is his full-time job. There is no overhead, no fancy cars and no office space. Just a bunch of dedicated people who are committed to sending four flights a year to Washington, D.C., filled with 85 veterans and 85 guardians. Backed by an enthusiastic volunteer corps of over 25, we work as a team to get the job done.
But our work is not done. There are so many more veterans out there who haven’t had the opportunity to see the World War II Memorial, Korean Memorial, Vietnam Wall, Air Force Memorial or Women’s Memorial that we will persevere until either the well runs dry or every last one who wants to go has been flown to Washington. And for those veterans who are no longer able to make the flight, we have wonderful technology called a virtual tour that will bring the World War II Memorial to them. To learn more about our mission, make a donation or find an application, please visit our website at www.HFNEI.org.
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