VETERAN’S DAY SPOTLIGHT: Space Coast Honor Flight Takes Brevard’s War Veterans To Washington D.C.
By Central Florida Humanitarians // November 11, 2019
2014 HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATION
ABOVE VIDEO: Space Coast Honor Flights honor that spirit and the courage that accompanies it. The program was created in appreciation of the unassuming heroes who made incredible sacrifices in order to ensure America’s freedom.
HONOR FLIGHTS: Honors the Spirit, Courage of the Greatest Generation, Space Coast Chapter Headed By Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. William Welser
CENTRAL FLORIDA, USA – Many of them no longer walk well, those members of the Greatest Generation who can still walk at all. The passage of years have slowed them down and added the infirmities of old age to their bodies, but their spirits remain indomitable.
Space Coast Honor Flights honor that spirit and the courage that accompanies it. The program was created in appreciation of the unassuming heroes who made incredible sacrifices in order to ensure America’s freedom.
The all-volunteer nonprofit provides trips to Washington, DC, free of charge to veterans who served in World War II, Korea or in between those wars.
Vets are paired with volunteer guardian escorts who help them with wheelchairs during the one-day whirlwind tour of the military monuments.
The trip from Melbourne to the Nation’s Capital makes for a long – but unforgettable – day for the vets, who gather together at around 3 a.m. at the Wickham Park Senior Center, where a bus picks them up for the trip to Orlando and a waiting crowd that cheers their arrival.
At Baltimore-Washington International Airport, another crowd welcomes with applause before a bus whisks the vets on the emotional visit to their monuments.
Everywhere they go that day, they are treated like rock stars.
Honor Flight volunteers realize time is of the essence because according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 veterans of World War II die each day.
The program was conceived by physician, pilot and retired Air Force Captain Earl Morse, who wanted to honor the veterans he had taken care of for almost three decades.
CHAPTER LEAD BY RETIRED AIR FORCE LT. GEN. WILLIAM WELSER
Many of the vets Morse treated expressed a desire to see the World War II memorial in Washington, DC, but they also admitted they lacked the physical wherewithal to complete the trip on their own and that their families did not have the financial resources to accompany them.
Morse began organizing flights on his own out of his Ohio base.
Soon other pilots joined in. Currently, Honor Flight has 127 chapters in 41 states and has honored more than 100,000 veterans with the flight of a lifetime.
The local chapter is headed by retired Air Force Lt. Gen. William Welser, who is also chairman of the board of Habitat for Humanity.
The need for the program was apparent when Welser saw the reaction his father and father-in-law both had when visiting the Washington military monuments during a family vacation.
He signed up to become an Honor Flight guardian and has participated in more than 20 trips.
Under Welser’s leadership, Space Coast Honor Flight has grown from three flights per year to seven. Honor Flight is a family affair for Welser and his wife, Susan, who serves as the group’s veteran coordinator.
The local chapter has been used as a model by other Honor Flight programs in Central Florida.
The veterans’ trip costs are made possible by donations and fundraising events. Guardians are asked to pay for their own airfare and to commit to a long day escorting the vets. For them, it is well worth it.
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Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
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