Morse, who was also a pilot, asked if they would go if he would fly them there. Soon 11 of his pilot associates joined in, at their own expense, to take the first dozen veterans on the first mission.
That was in January 2005, and the idea quickly grew. A non-profit group was formed to accept donations, and more than 100 hubs were formed all across the nation. Time was critical, with an estimated 900 veterans dying per day. Some areas already reported offering Honor Flights to 100 percent of the veterans in their areas, and others are closing in on completing their missions. The Honor Flight Network reports that by the end of 2011, 81,000 veterans had taken part.
In our area, Julius Mitchell of Cropwell and John Woodard of Talladega were part of the latest group from Alabama to make the trip, 84 veterans and their escorts.
Both spoke of how meaningful the trip was to them. Meeting and traveling with other World War II veterans and seeing the memorial had to be moving experiences. They noted the 400 stars on the Gold Star Wall, each representing 100 soldiers who didn’t come home, again emphasizing the enormity of the war.
World War II turned the tide of history in the 20th century, and ranks among the most significant events in human history. We are grateful for those who served, and we appreciate those who made the Honor Flights possible as a service to them.