HISTORY OF THE HONOR FLIGHT NETWORK
In May of 2004, the WWII Memorial was finally completed and dedicated in Washington DC.
This quickly became the topic of discussion among WWII veterans who were patients at a Department of Veterans Affairs clinic
in Springfield, Ohio.
Earl Morse, a Retired Air Force Captain who is also a Physician Assistant at the clinic,
asked these veterans if they would ever travel out to visit their memorial. Most felt that eventually, somehow, they would
make it. As summer turned to fall, and then winter, these same veterans returned to the clinic for their follow-up visits.
Earl asked if they accomplished their dream of visiting the WWII Memorial. By now, reality had settled in. It was clear to
most that it simply was not financially or physically possible for them to make the journey. Most of these WWII heroes were
in their 80s and unable to complete a trip on their own. Families and friends also lacked the resources and time. Earl could
tell that the majority of the veterans had given up all hope of ever visiting the memorial that was created to honor their
services and the services of their fellow comrades who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Earl is also a private pilot. In December of 2004, he asked one of his WWII veteran patients
if he could personally fly him out to DC, free of charge, to visit his memorial. The gentleman broke down and cried. He said
at his age he knew he would probably never get to see his memorial. He accepted the offer. A second veteran was asked the
same question a week later. His response was the same.
In January, 2005, Earl addressed members of an aero club, outlining a volunteer program
to fly veterans to their memorial. There were two major stipulations to his request. The first was that the veterans pay nothing.
The entire aircraft rental would have to be paid solely by the pilots. The second was that the pilots personally escort the
veterans around DC the entire day. Eleven pilots who had never met his patients volunteered. Honor Flight was born.
Other dedicated volunteers joined, a board was formed, funds were raised and the first
flight took to the air in May of 2005. Soon other flights were planned and successfully accomplished. So many veterans wanted
to participate that by the end of the year Honor Flight began using commercial aircraft.
The mission and ideals of the program began to spread across America. Jeff Miller led
the expansion into areas not serviced by direct commercial flights to Washington DC by arranging charter flights out of Hendersonville,
North Carolina. Similar organizations began to follow suit. Earl and Jeff combined efforts and co-founded the Honor Flight
A small tribute to those who gave so much.