Two AF Members To Escort WWII Vets To Washington, D.C.
By Susan A. Romano, AFTAC Public Affairs // April 2, 2015
Honor Flight Network has safely transported more than 82,000 veterans across the country
BREVARD COUNTY • PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, FLORIDA – Through an essay contest conducted at the Air Force Technical Applications Center at Patrick Air Force Base, two members of the center will escort a pair of World War II veterans on an upcoming Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
Recently, Dr. Dan DeForest, AFTAC’s Director of Materials Technology, placed a bid at a Space Coast Honor Flight (SCHF) charity silent auction and won a trip to Washington, D.C., to escort a World War II veteran to the memorials.
Since he had already participated in an honor flight, he decided it would be rewarding to have an essay contest entitled, “Why I Want to Escort a Veteran on an Honor Flight,” for members of the treaty monitoring center.
“My goal was to generate interest throughout AFTAC so others could reap the benefits of this very worthwhile program,” said Dr. Dan DeForest.
Established in 2005, the Honor Flight Network (HFN) was formed to fulfill the dream of many World War II veterans of traveling to Washington to see the memorial that was erected in their honor in 2004.
Morse wanted to honor the veterans he had taken care of throughout his career, but realized many of the veterans weren’t financially or physically able to make the trip themselves.
The retired captain worked tirelessly to establish a way for veterans to visit the memorial, and had just two stipulations: the first was that the veterans would pay nothing to attend; and the second was the pilots would personally escort the veterans around Washington, D.C., for the entire day.
DeForest enlisted the help of retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Bill Welser, currently an AFTAC contractor and president of the local Honor Flight hub, to assist him as an essay judge. The two reviewed every submission and narrowed it down to two finalists.
“We had two essays that really impacted both of us,” said DeForest, “and making a final decision was going to be extremely hard. That’s when Gen. Welser said to me, ‘How about we send both of them?’”
And so they did.
Dr. Theresa Hofstetter, an AFTAC chemist, and Senior Airman Marc Andrews, AFTAC’s radiation protection technician, were the two winners. Each had his/her own reason for wanting to participate in the contest.
“It seemed like an opportunity for a unique and incredibly moving experience to be able to spend the day with a veteran on a hugely emotional day,” said Hofstetter.
“I knew it would be a chance of a lifetime to share in their memories from such an intense time of their lives.”
“For me, I’m a third generation military member, and I thought this would be a perfect way to give back to an establishment that had given so much to my family,” said Andrews. “I hope to have an unforgettable experience and greater appreciation for those who sacrificed so much to keep America safe.”
Hofstetter and Andrews will serve as escorts, or ‘guardians’ as they are called by the Honor Flight Network, and will remain with the same veteran for the duration of the whirlwind trip.
“The process begins at ‘oh-dark-thirty’ on a Saturday morning and returns late Saturday evening,” said Welser.
“About a month after the flight, there is a reunion for all those who traveled on that respective trip.”
DeForest added, “The reunion is a big part of the program – it gives the veterans and their escorts the opportunity to share their photos, their stories and their reflections about the journey.”
Hofstetter’s essay talked about her two grandmothers, both having served during World War II – one an Army nurse; the other, an Army dietitian.
“My Grandma Barbara on my father’s side spent time in the Pacific and was famous for her war stories,” said Dr. Theresa Hofstetter.
“She assisted in the opening of a temporary hospital that served soldiers with physical injuries and mental stresses of war. She had an incredible sense of humor.
“My Grandma Jeanne, my mother’s mother, had a patch on her uniform that read ‘HD’ for hospital dietitian, but she always said it stood for ‘hot dish,’ and she used that line on the man that would ultimately become my grandfather,” said Hofstetter.
Andrews’ essay focused on his desire to learn more about our nation’s veterans who he called, “the backbone of America.”
“The United States is still the land of prosperity because of the brave men and women from World War II who held nothing back and gave their all to defend our country. They embody the creed and essence of our modern day Air Force Core Values,” said Senior Airman Marc Andrews, AFTAC’s radiation protection technician.
“This will be much more than a learning opportunity for me – it will be a chance to give back to the people who sacrificed so much and asked for so little in return. In my opinion, there is no better way to thank them for the freedoms and luxuries we enjoy today.”
The 2015 SCHF calendar has seven flights planned (one already completed). Hofstetter and Andrews plan to make the trip together. Neither has ever visited the World War II Memorial in the nation’s capital.
“I expect to be incredibly humbled during this journey,” said Hofstetter.
“I want to be able to listen patiently, attentively and respectfully, while also having enthusiasm and excitement to make sure my veteran knows just how special and big their individual role was and continues to be to our country.”
To date, the Honor Flight Network has safely transported more than 82,000 veterans across the country.
For more information on how to become involved in the Honor Flight Network, visit their website at spacecoasthonorflight.org or call 888-750-2522.