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Honor Flight

Estherville News Editorial

May 11, 2016
Estherville News Staff , Estherville News

Tomorrow is a day to have lunch. Pick it up from the parking lot of Hy-Vee. If you can't make it, we hope members of the community will give generously to the Honor Flight, which will take possibly nine Emmet County Veterans along with groups of veterans from the Brushy Creek area on an all expenses paid flight to Washington, DC.

Honor Flight Network is an organization created solely to honor America's veterans for all their sacrifices. They transport veterans to Washington, DC to visit and reflect at their memorials. First priority goes to the most senior veterans. In 2015, the Honor Flight Network flew 20,886 veterans, and 159,703 since 2005. These veterans were accompanied by 19,093 guardians, escorts accompanying the veterans to ensure their well being and comfort. At last count, there are 21,032 veterans on the waitlist, 20 percent of them World War II veterans, 43.5 percent Korea veterans, and 36 percent Vietnam veterans, a category which has recently opened. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 World War II veterans die each day. If they were 18 near the end of World War II in 1945, the youngest are now 89 years old.

The Honor Flight program was conceived by Earl Morse, a physician assistant and retired Air Force captain. After he retired from the Air Force in 1998, Morse worked in a small Veteran's Affairs clinic in Ohio. After the World War II Memorial was completed and dedicated in 2004, it quickly became the topic of conversation among his many World War II veteran patients. They expressed a dream of making it to Washington, DC to visit the memorial, hoping a family member of friend would take or accompany them.

Within the following months and years, Earl observed that reality set in for many of these veterans. They could not make the trip alone, and family and friends did not have the time or resources to make a three-to-four-day trip to the Capital to see the memorial.

Serendipitously, Earl was also a private pilot, and retained his membership at the large aero club at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

In December, 2004, Earl asked one of his World War II veteran patients if it would be all right if Earl personally flew him to Washington, D.C., free of charge, so he could see the memorial. The patient broke down and cried, he said at his age, he would probably never get to see the memorial otherwise, and he graciously accepted the offer. As Earl posed the question to more patients, he received the same response. Soon thereafter, Earl brought up the idea at an aero club meeting of 150 pilots. The two conditions: the veteran's pay nothing, and that the pilots escort the veterans personally around DC. At the end of the meeting, eleven pilots who had never met any of Earl's patients stepped up to volunteer.

That was the beginning of Honor Flight. We hope Emmet County will ensure that none of our eligible veterans goes without the chance to see their memorial and take one more tour with honor. If you can't make lunch, send donations to Citizens Community Bank, made out to Brushy Creek Honor Flight.



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