Many of us are aware of the Honor Flight Network. If we are not, it’s important that we learn about it. It is defined on its web page, in its own straight-forward words, this way: “Honor Flight is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing veterans with honor and closure.”
Here is the brief story of how this powerful force for good began not so long ago, with one man’s determination to pay tribute to “The Greatest Generation.”
Honor Flight is the vision of Earl Morse, a retired Air Force Captain working as a Physician Assistant in a small VA clinic in Springfield, Ohio. Earl got to know many World War II veterans as he worked with them at the clinic, beginning in 1998. The World War II Memorial, finished in 2004, had become an important topic of conversation among the vets. The consensus among them was that surely they’d go to Washington at some point to visit the memorial to their years of service to their country, and to pay tribute to their fellow soldiers who didn’t make it home.
As several months passed after construction was complete, there was a shift in the conversation at the clinic. Most of the veterans were in their 80s, and had realized the financial and personal difficulties such a trip would entail. They had all but given up the expectation that there was a way in the time they had left to see their memorial.
As Earl spoke to these old warriors, he determined to find a way to get at least some of them to Washington. He started thinking about what he, personally, could do — for Earl was a private pilot and a member of a large aero club based out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.
In December 2004, Earl offered one of his patients a round-trip ride to Washington, free of charge, to visit the Memorial. His patient accepted gratefully. Shortly afterward, Earl offered another vet a flight to Washington to see the Memorial. He, too, was glad to have the chance to go, and accepted the offer.
Earl had a mission: to continue to honor not only the aging World War II veterans whom he’d gotten to know while they were his patients at the clinic, but to reach out to every veteran he could. His first talk about what he was doing, to about 150 members of his aero club, brought 11 volunteers willing to fly veterans, free of charge, to Washington, D.C., personally escort them to the Memorial and around D.C. for a day, then fly them home in the evening. The entire expense was borne by the pilots. And so, six small planes flew 12 happy veterans to see their memorial and tour Washington, D.C. The first Honor Flight was born.
By the end of 2012, the number of veterans who had traveled by air to visit their memorial was a staggering 98,500. The program has spread over the entire country, and continues to grow. Commercial airlines are involved, as Honor Flight has turned into a movement to honor as many of our World War II veterans as possible, while we can. Veterans of the Korean War and the Vietnam War are beginning to be involved as well.
For more information about Honor Flight, please visit their website at http://www.honorflightcolumbus.org/.
Several weeks ago, I became aware that the father of a friend had been chosen to fly aboard an Honor Flight from Columbus to Washington, D.C. Sgt. Paul Rehmar, U.S. Army, Ret. who served during the war as a translator, will travel to Washington on Saturday, May 13. In one full day, Sgt. Rehmar and a planeload of his fellow soldiers from Ohio will join hundreds of others at the World War II Memorial and on a tour of Washington. Mail call will come as they fly home. My letter will be among several voicing heartfelt thanks for the years of service a young man gave to his country decades ago.
God bless you, Paul Rehmar, and God bless those who served with you. You are truly “The Greatest Generation.”
I know you remember (never mind how “fondly”) some of the chow you were served in the mess hall. If the memories have dimmed somewhat, here’s a reminder!
CREAMED CHIPPED BEEF ON TOAST
(AKA STUFF ON A SHINGLE)
8 ounces chipped beef
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons minced onion
3 tablespoons minced green peppers
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon chopped parsley or chives
1/4 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons capers or chopped pickles
Hot buttered toast
This recipe comes from “The Joy of Cooking.” It was in every printing between 1932 and 1964 and comes with the caveat “Do not oversalt!”
Pull apart beef. Melt butter in a large skillet. Saute onion and green pepper in it until light brown. Sprinkle these with flour. Add milk slowly, stirring constantly. Add the beef.
Simmer until thickened. Remove from the heat and season with parsley or chives, paprika, sherry, and capers or chopped pickles.
Serve on hot buttered toast.
Makes four large servings.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at email@example.com.