This month’s Mercer Savings Bank Giving Mission recipient is the Honor Flight Network. The national nonprofit organization celebrates America’s veterans with a day of honor in our nation’s capital. They’re currently flying approximately 22,500 veterans to Washington, D.C., every year.
Learn more about the organization and find out how you can help support its mission.
Honor Flight Network: How It All Began
Honor Flight Network dates back to 2005 when Veterans Affairs Physician’s Assistant Earl Morse, a former Air Force medic, started talking to some of his patients in Springfield, Ohio, about the recently unveiled World War II Memorial.
Earl asked them if they were planning to visit the memorial constructed in their honor and was surprised at the responses he received. Earl said many veterans didn’t think they’d ever get to see it due to the cost of travel, mobility issues, and travel logistics.
Shortly after these conversations, Earl made the decision to collaborate with volunteer pilots from his pilot’s club located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The goal was to transport World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., so they could visit the memorials built to honor their service and sacrifice. Fortunately, several pilots were willing to help fly the planes and cover the costs of the flights themselves.
Jeff Miller joined Earl’s efforts in continuing these Honor Flights for veterans by launching a partnership with Southwest Airlines to use commercial planes for future trips. Jeff and Earl were able to take more veterans with this major airline, which donates a small number of round-trip tickets for Honor Flight veterans each year.
Expanding Its Mission to Vietnam War Veterans
Honor Flight Network Chief Executive Officer Meredith Rosenbeck began working with Honor Flight in 2012, initially as their outside legal counsel. She has served as CEO for over five years.
“I got involved with Honor Flight as their legal counsel a number of years ago and got to know the founders really well during that time and came to love the mission,” said Meredith. “It’s so simple and so clear but yet so impactful.”
Meredith’s grandfather was a World War II veteran, so she understood the impact the trips had on veterans. She’s also seeing a shift in the veterans they serve and has found the expanding mission particularly meaningful.
“Seeing our Vietnam veterans finally get that welcome home is really moving and motivates me to keep going,” added Meredith. “For me, the core of our mission has transitioned toward honoring our Vietnam veterans. We still have some World War II and Korean War veterans on our flights, but the majority are Vietnam veterans.”
Meredith has also observed the positive impact the flights are having on the younger generation of veterans who have served in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, the Global War on Terror, and other conflicts.
“They see our Vietnam veterans being honored and realize our nation is truly grateful for the service and sacrifices they have made,” said Meredith. “It’s been inspiring to see how the honor is trickling down through the generations.”
Fulfilling Dreams at Honor Flight Network Hubs
Honor Flight Network is a national nonprofit organization made up of over 125 independent hubs throughout the country. Veterans can search for the closest hub and sign up for a complimentary one-day, round-trip flight to visit the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War Memorials.
Since hubs are independently organized, some Honor Flights may also include Arlington National Cemetery or other stops, like the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps Memorials. Honor Flight veterans have the opportunity to share this occasion with comrades, remember the fallen, and hear stories and experiences from other veterans.
Honored veterans always travel for free, thanks to the generous donations to the Honor Flight Network. The organization is approaching its 20th anniversary in 2025 and has flown over 300,000 veterans to Washington, D.C., since its inception.
Supporting the Honor Flight Network
Honor Flight Network volunteers are instrumental in the success of the organization. They provide welcome celebrations and greetings at the airports in Washington, D.C., and also back at the independent airport hub locations.
“We love when our communities come out to our airports to welcome the veterans home after their Honor Flight trip,” said Meredith. “We know our veterans are tired after a long day, but when they get back to their airport and there are a whole bunch of family, friends, and community members, including kids, holding up signs, they get that welcome home celebration they truly deserve.”
Another way to get involved with the Honor Flight Network is to encourage veterans in your community to apply for an Honor Flight trip. Meredith has found that many Vietnam veterans are hesitant to sign up because their service wasn’t something they looked upon fondly in their lives.
“Once we get our Vietnam veterans on a trip and give them a day where they feel honored and special, our efforts were all worth it,” added Meredith. “In Mercer County, you have three options of hubs that are close by, so you can visit our website, find the most convenient hub, and fill out your application to be placed on a waiting list.”
Honor Flight Network relies solely on private donations and corporate sponsorships as they don’t receive any government funding. Donations are always welcome and appreciated, and can be made online or by mail.
Additional information about Honor Flight Network can be found on their website and Facebook page, as noted below. You can contact the organization through email or phone if you have questions or would like to help support the organization.