November 15, 2010
"With Honor and Gratitude"
The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
Last week, as our nation celebrated Veteran’s Day, I learned of a national volunteer effort to honor veterans that so touched me that I wanted to share it with you in this week’s “Words of Wellness.” I think you will find this timely, not just in light of Veteran’s Day which has just passed, but also in light of looking forward to Thanksgiving. As you will see in this story, the primary motivation for the person who started this national volunteer effort to honor veterans was the desire to find a way to express a deep sense of gratitude for all that the veterans had done.
You may have heard of Honor Flights, but this wonderful cause was new to me. Honor Flights flies veterans to Washington, D.C. and takes them to see the memorials of the respective wars in which the veterans served. Honor Flight started soon after the completion of the World War II memorial in 2004. The primary focus was to give aging World War II veterans a chance to visit their national memorial. All Honor Flights are free of charge to veterans and all flights are staffed by volunteers who accompany the men and women who are being honored. In 2005 137 veterans flew on Honor Flights and by 2009 that number had risen to 17,832, and the number continues to grow.
The story of veterans being honored by Honor Flights is moving enough, but what I also find very moving is how the idea for the program originated. Honor Flights grew out of one man’s desire to express gratitude and appreciation for some veterans he knew personally. That man is Earl Morse, and shortly after the World War II memorial was completed in 2004, he came up with the idea that grew into what is now Honor Flights. Morse was a retired Air Force Captain who was working as a physician’s assistant in a small clinic in Springfield, Ohio where he treated many veterans. Morse would frequently ask the World War II veterans if they were going to go a visit their new memorial in Washington, D.C. Most of them said they would love to go, but didn’t have the money nor the means to make the trip.
It turns out that Earl Morse is also a pilot, and so he came up with an idea of how he could express his gratitude to the World War II veterans that he treated in his clinic. One day he asked one of his patients, Mr. Loy, if it would be okay if he personally flew Mr. Loy out to D.C. to see the World War II memorial. And now, quoting from the Honor Flights website, “Mr. Loy broke down and cried. He told Morse that at his age he would probably never get to see his memorial otherwise, and graciously accepted the offer. Morse posed the same question to a second World War II veteran a week later. He too cried and enthusiastically accepted the trip.” Not long after this he took the men to see their memorials. Morse then returned home to recruit other volunteer pilots and within a year the Honor Flights had grown to the point where they were being flown on commercial airliners, but still free of charge to the veterans.
The story of Honor Flights is a reminder of the incredible difference it can make when we make the effort to express authentic gratitude to those whom we love and respect. We will never regret going out of our way to truly appreciate and thank the people we know who have made a positive difference in the world and in our lives. It is so easy to take for granted the good that others do, and forget to take the time to let them know how much they mean to us. As Thanksgiving approaches this year, let’s all think about who we want to be sure to thank and to honor in our lives right now. We don’t have to fly them to Washington, D.C., but our words of gratitude and appreciation will help their spirits soar none the less.
You can watch a moving video of a recent Honor Flight at: