Thursday, April 14, 2011
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Land of Lincoln Honor Flight dinner Sunday

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[April 14, 2011]  There will be a Land of Lincoln Honor Flight dinner on Sunday at the Lincoln American Legion Post 263, 1740 Fifth Street Road. Food will be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The meal will consist of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, roll and butter, and iced tea and coffee, all for $7. Carryouts will be available.

There will also be a 50-50 raffle, bake sale and merchandise raffle.

Land of Lincoln Honor Flight information will be available along with applications and fundraising shirts.

The dinner and activities are sponsored by the American Legion family: the American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion.

About Honor Flight

Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization created solely to honor America's veterans for all their sacrifices. Honor Flight transports veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans -- World War II survivors -- along with other veterans who may be terminally ill.

Of all the wars in recent memory, it was World War II that truly threatened our very existence as a nation and as a culturally diverse, free society. Now, with over a thousand World War II veterans dying each day, the time to express thanks to these brave men and women is running out.

The trips are at no cost for World War II and terminally ill veterans. The veterans do not need to bring any money, unless they intend to purchase souvenirs.

Honor Flight Network receives no national, government sponsorship. Funding comes primarily from individuals across the country who recognize the great accomplishments and sacrifices of veterans and want them to see their memorial before it's too late.

Other significant contributors have been fraternal organizations such as local chapters and posts of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans and Military Order of the Purple Heart, as well as various corporations on a local level.

The inaugural Honor Flight took place in May of 2005. Six small planes flew out of Springfield, Ohio, taking 12 World War II veterans on a visit to Washington, D.C. In August of 2005, an ever-expanding waiting list of veterans led to the transition to commercial airline carriers, with the goal of accommodating as many veterans as possible.

Honor Flight later partnered with HonorAir in Hendersonville, N.C., to form the Honor Flight Network. Today, the organization continues working aggressively to expand its programs to other cities across the nation.

How a dream became a reality

The Honor Flight Network program was conceived by Earl Morse, a physician assistant and retired Air Force captain. He wanted to honor the veterans he had taken care of for the past 27 years.

After retiring from the Air Force in 1998, Morse was hired by the Department of Veterans Affairs to work in a small clinic in Springfield, Ohio. In May of 2004, the World War II Memorial was finally completed and dedicated in Washington, D.C., and quickly became the topic of discussion among his World War II veteran patients.

Morse repeatedly asked these veterans if they would ever travel out to visit their memorial. Most felt that eventually, somehow, they would make it to D.C., perhaps with a family member or friend.

As summer turned to fall and then winter, these same veterans returned to the clinic for their follow-up visits. Morse asked if they had accomplished their dream of visiting the World War II Memorial.

By then, for most of the veterans he asked, reality had settled in; it was clear to most that it simply wasn't financially or physically possible for them to make the journey. Most of these senior heroes were in their 80s and lacked the physical and mental wherewithal to complete a trip on their own. Families and friends also lacked the resources and time to complete the three- to four-day trip to the nation's capital.

Morse could tell that the majority of the veterans had given up all hope of ever visiting the memorial that was specifically created to honor their services as well as the services of their fellow comrades who had paid the ultimate sacrifice. That's when he decided that there had to be a way to get these heroes to D.C. to see their memorial.

In addition to being a physician assistant, Morse was a private pilot and a member of one of the nation's largest and best aero clubs, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. And things started coming together.

In December of 2004, Morse asked one of his World War II veteran patients if it would be all right if he personally flew him out to D.C., free of charge, to visit his memorial. The veteran, Mr. Loy, broke down and cried. He told Morse that at his age he would probably never get to see his memorial otherwise and graciously accepted the offer.

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Morse posed the same question to a second World War II veteran a week later. He too cried and enthusiastically accepted the trip.

It didn't take long for Morse to realize there were many veterans who would have the same reaction. So he started asking for help from other pilots to make these dreams a reality.

In January of 2005, he addressed about 150 members of the aero club during a safety meeting, 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 -- $600 to $1,200 for the day -- would have to be paid solely by the pilots. The second was that the pilots personally escort the veterans around D.C. for the entire day.

After he spoke, 11 pilots who had never met his patients stepped up to volunteer. And Honor Flight was born.

The dream takes flight

Soon other dedicated volunteers joined, a board was formed, funds were raised and that first flight took to the air in May of 2005. Six small planes flew 12 very happy veterans out to Manassas, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C. Vans then transported the pilots and veterans into D.C. and to the World War II Memorial.

The responses from both the veterans and the pilots were overwhelming. It was an experience that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

Soon other flights were planned and made. So many veterans wanted to participate that commercial aircraft were used to accommodate 40 veterans at a time, including many in wheelchairs. By the end of the first year, Honor Flight had transported 137 World War II veterans to their memorial.

In 2006, commercial flights were used exclusively, due to the number of veterans on the waiting list and adverse weather conditions that prohibited small aircraft from participating on a regular schedule. Locally, another 300 veterans completed the journey during that year.

The mission and ideals of the program began to spread across America. Other cities and states became aware of the efforts, and Honor Flight fostered working relationships with dedicated community leaders in several states.

Jeff Miller in Hendersonville, N.C., led the expansion into areas not serviced by direct commercial flights to the Washington, D.C., area. He accomplished what was thought to be impossible, organizing and obtaining funding to fly an entire commercial jet filled with local area veterans to visit the monument.

This was the beginning of Henderson County's HonorAir. On Sept. 23, 2006, and again on Sept. 24 the US Airways-chartered jet was filled with World War II veterans and their guardians. Miller repeated his success on Nov. 4, 2006. In less than three months, HonorAir had flown over 300 World War II veterans to D.C.

Miller quickly shared his expertise with others who started HonorAir programs in several other areas of the country. By the end of 2006, 891 World War II veterans across America realized their dream of visiting their memorial.

In May 2008, Southwest Airlines stepped up by donating thousands of free tickets and was named the official commercial carrier of the Honor Flight Network in a joint news release. It is because of this generous donation that the Honor Flight Network undoubtedly now has more flexibility, more opportunity and is now more able than ever to serve more veterans on the "anxiously waiting list" than would have been possible otherwise, given the economic situation and the decrease in charitable contributions.

[Text from Honor Flight Network, American Legion, LDN]

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