Their philosophy is “Since America felt it was important to build a memorial to the service and the ultimate sacrifice of her veterans, the Honor Flight Network believes it’s equally important that they actually get to visit and experience their memorial.” The organization covers all travel, food, lodging, and admission expenses for the veterans. These individuals are transported by commercial airlines and private pilots, such as Michael Fassi.
The Honor Flight Network was founded by Earl Morse, a retired captain in the United States Air Force who works as a physician’s assistant for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The idea for the organization came to him after speaking with a number of his patients who were World War II Veterans. They were upset that they were unable to visit their memorial in Washington DC after it was completed in 2004 due to financial or physical limitations.
As a private pilot himself, Morse decided he would fly these patients to the memorials. After an overwhelming interest, Morse got other pilots involved. In May of 2005, six small plans took 12 veterans to see the World War II Memorial. The following year they began using commercial flights and transported over 100 veterans.
The values of this organization have inspired individuals all over the nation to get involved. The Honor Flight Network currently has 121 hubs in 41 states. Their priority is providing these services to World War II veterans due to their advanced age. Their second priority is Korean and Vietnam War Veterans who have terminal illnesses. Eventually, this organization would like to expand their services to include all veterans, even those who have fought in recent wars.
In most cases, veterans who have access to one of the organization’s many hubs will fill out an application and travel through that hub to Washington DC. For veterans who do not live near these areas there are a few program options. The Southwest TLC program stands for “Their Last Chance.” Individuals who qualify for this program provide the organizations note stating that they are terminally ill. They are then put on the next available trip to Washington, DC, regardless of their location.
The Lone Eagle program is for individuals who do not live within a 120 mile radius of a hub and have spent over a year on the organization’s waiting list. These veterans travel with a guardian who is able to care for their medical needs and has made a $400 donation. After making this donation, the guardian’s meal, lodging, travel, and other expenses are taken care of by the Honor Flight Network.
An extension of this is the Solo Program, which allows individuals who do not qualify under the other programs to travel to their memorials with a large group of fellow veterans. Along with a group of up to five guardians, the veteran must fund their own transportation to Baltimore Washington International Airport. The rest of the trip is covered by the organization. After their flight, the participants are transported to the hotel where they will meet with the other veterans who they are traveling to the memorial with the following day. Hero Flight Network continues to work to give every veteran the opportunity to experience their memorial.