LOS ANGELES — Honor flights across the country help transport America’s veterans to Washington, DC so they can visit the memorials dedicated to their service and sacrifice.
After the World War II Memorial was completed in 2004, it became apparent to Honor Flight Network’s co-founder Earl Morse that many of the war’s veterans were physically or financially incapable of making a three-day trip to the nation’s capital.
Earl, a retired Air Force captain, started flying veterans personally — free of charge — in 2004. Now, Honor Flight Network has 127 hubs in 41 states.
One reason for this exponential growth is the assistance from Southwest Airlines. It became the official commercial carrier of the Honor Flight Network in 2008. The company donated thousands of tickets and it allowed the organization the ability to help reach the thousands of veterans on the waiting list where donations weren’t enough.
The company also participates in the Southwest Lone Eagle Program that helps veterans outside a 120-mile radius from the hubs, and the Southwest TLC program, or “The Last Chance” program. The TLC program helps all veterans of war that are terminally ill and wish to see their nation’s monuments.
Some areas are particularly robust. Wisconsin alone has six Honor Flight hubs, thanks in large part to the continued fundraising and press from Charlie Sykes, a television and radio host in Milwaukee.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 veterans die each day. Honor Flight Network’s goal is to make sure every veteran can see their memorials before they do. All veterans fly for free, and rightly so. It is freedom that they fought for. All one has to do is go online and complete the brief application online.
And the veterans aren’t flying alone. Three Honor Flight guardians are assigned to each group of eight veterans. They assist with security lines and boarding, and everything else they can do to make it a safe and rewarding experience for the heroes. They, unlike the veterans, don’t fly free. Instead, they pay their travel and lodging for the privilege of being of service to those who served. While family and friends can pay their way and join as guardians, some simply volunteer to show their appreciation.
Across the battlefields, across the country, from corporate sponsors to guardians, people are helping these men and women who served their country. Watch the video to see how a 10-year-old boy sent over 100 veterans and their companions on honor flights.