We are down to the last details for Flight Day, September 17 when 61 WW II Veterans will embark on an Honor Flight from Traverse City. We have been so fortunate to find willing volunteers who are helping us assemble an incredible day for our Veterans and Guardians. I would like to take this time to thank our Board member in TC, Beau Vore, who has managed a laundry list of tasks and planned and executed this “Tour of Honor.” Veterans and Guardians have optional housing at Lake Ann Christian Camp in Lake Ann, MI; they will be bussed to the airport in the morning and back at night for a second night’s stay if they wish; registration at 4 PM and a Meet & Greet with dinner is scheduled for 5-7PM. The staff at Lake Ann has been so helpful with suggestions to insure the comfort and safety of our flyers staying there. Beau has also amassed many, many military groups and organizations who will take part in this awesome day from escorting the buses, to greeting the Veterans at the airport, to help with registration and at the Welcome Home. He has secured the use of the Coast Guard hangar (WOW!) for the Welcome Home and that will be a grand celebration!
I would also like to mention the endless hours, phone calls and emails Jeanne McMillan has put into organizing groups of volunteers to assist us. She has found us vendors, donations, sponsors and items we need to make this day a memorable event. She has also been instrumental in finding groups of volunteers to handle everything from the Send Off and registration, to putting the cinchpacks together and staffing at the Welcome Home. We are so fortunate for both of these shining stars and I appreciate their efforts very much.
After this flight our flying season will be over and the Board will begin the process of planning fundraising events; a strategy for flights for 2015; continuing to expand our Squadrons; re-addressing our various applications and forms to make our processes and procedures flow smoothly. I thought I’d take a moment here to explain the procedures we go through to seat a flight. Each Veteran who applies with us is recorded and time-stamped. They are then added to our waiting list. When we confirm a flight and determine the amount of Veterans we can take (logistics enter into the picture here regarding how many buses we will need and how many wheel chairs we can fit on each bus, etc.) we pull that amount plus about 20 more applications and send them to our Medical Review Team made up of a Doctor, nurse and 3 EMTs. They review the applications for completeness and make calls if there is missing information. They review closely the medical needs of each Veteran to determine if we can meet their needs in the framework of our mission. We are not a flying hospital and can only provide for Veterans comfort and safety. Once they are cleared, we start calling Veterans for a pre-flight interview for a more in depth understanding and extent of their mobility. We also note allergies, hearing issues, etc. Once a Vet agrees to fly with us we send out a packet of paperwork to be completed and ask each for a doctor’s note stating he is aware of the trip and feels the Veteran is fit to fly. We then begin the process of selecting Guardians who are most compatible with their care needs, mobility, etc. You see, we want to insure that this is the best experience for both the Veteran and Guardian. We then contact the Guardians and encourage them to talk with their Veteran prior to the flight, to begin establishing a relationship. A lot of Guardians will then email how excited they are to have talked with their Veteran and can’t wait until flight day.
It is a process, and there are no short cuts. This September flight has proven to be most challenging. The average age for the June flight was 90, this flight the average age is 93. A lot of the Veterans contacted were just too medically frail at this point in their lives, to go with us. It was a heartbreaking experience for me because they deserve this opportunity, but they can’t take advantage of it.
Our mission will continue taking WW II, Korean War and any terminally ill Veteran to Washington, D.C. on an Honor Flight. WW II Veterans will have priority and if we have open seats, any terminally ill Veteran that we can adequately care for, will get the first seat available. We will then transition to Korean and on.
So, it is important to note that Veterans need to get their applications into us as soon as possible. If they know of a person they wish to escort them, that person must also apply as a Guardian at that time. There is a line on the Veteran’s application to name their Guardian. And, on the Guardian application there is a line to request to escort a named Veteran. This is the only way we know the connection between the two.
We have specific requirements for our Guardians. They must be between 18-70 years old. We cannot take spouses. They must be able to help with wheelchair loading and unloading, lift 50 pounds. They must complete a Guardian training session prior to flying. And, they pay their own way. For the 2014 flying season the cost was $500. This Guardian fee is a donation. We are a 501C3 organization and depending on your income tax situation, you may be able to deduct this as a charitable donation. You will need to check with your tax advisor.
We are always seeking Guardians with some medical training in their background. Veterans, current military, family members and anyone else who can meet the requirements also welcome to apply. These applications can be found on our website.
And, as we finish our very first year, we hope you will continue to support our mission and share our vision. Please visit us on Facebook for updates, especially during flying season. We have been posting photos of our flights there.
We can’t fly without You!
We are well on our way with planning for our September 17 flight out of Traverse City. We will be making our pre-flight phone calls beginning August 4 to notify Veterans that we have a seat for them. Beginning August 11 we will be contacting Guardians who have been paired with a WW II Veteran for the flight.
It seems that the whole city of Traverse City has welcomed our Hub and the excitement is building for our flight out of Traverse City’s Cherry Capital airport.
WTCM has been very generous with the PSA announcement they are airing.
The DAR and Blue Star Mothers are helping in a big way to plan the Send Off/Registration and the Welcome Home. And numerous veteran groups and businesses have reached out to us with their support. The TC Beach Bums are helping us raise funds. Look for information regarding Mid-Michigan Honor Flight being highlighted at some of their games!!
The Board of Directors is busy with the details that are so important to the success of flight day from reserving a Police Escort, to planning the itinerary for the day. We are planning a Town Hall meeting in Traverse City, inviting anyone who may be interested in learning about us, and volunteering to help with our flight.
For more information please see our Facebook page or contact us via our website.
Please consider making a donation, perhaps in honor or memory of a loved one. How great it will feel to know you helped send a Veteran on an Honor Flight! And you can do it easily online!!
We can’t fly without you!
It has been truly an amazing journey for our Hub from
inception to our first Flight Day. I
cannot thank the Board of Directors enough for stepping up and helping where
needed. Some of them will be
attritioning off the Board as their terms end, and we hope to welcome new,
willing and highly skilled additional Board members.
The sheer volume of Volunteers that were brought together to assist in everything from telephone calls to registering, to the Ferris connection, to our Welcome Home, speaks volumes about the communities who support these American heroes.
Ferris State University stepped in, in a very big way, to give our Veterans and Guardians a grand experience. They had the opportunity to register, have dinner and stay at Ferris the night before our flight, and stay overnight with breakfast, the day after. And that’s not all! There were ‘goodies’ in their suites, flowers in their rooms, students hosting each building assisting with room arrangements, getting the Veterans up, and Ferris buses to get them to the airport and back!!! The faculty and student organizations couldn’t do enough for us. They totally embraced our initial query, and ran with it. Gary Wendlowsky and Ed Shepard, both on staff at Ferris, flew as Guardians on our Inaugural Flight.
We also had the total immersion of Ice Mountain not only as a financial sponsor, but staffing our registration with employees, providing the name tags/boarding passes for all flyers, and water. It was amazing what they organized among the chaos. Arlene Anderson-Vincent from Ice Mountain flew as a Guardian on the flight.
Thanks also to the Blue Star Mothers and especially Deann and Kathy. Our Send Off and Welcome Home provided our Veterans with some refreshments, entertainment and “Rock Star” treatment.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention our partnership with JR Supply/Patton Holding who sponsored us in a big way financially, and then their employees involved themselves in additional fundraising, designing and packing the backpacks for our Veterans, and had four employees train as Guardians to accompany WW II Veterans on our flight. Thank you for making this day possible.
All of our very generous sponsors made this day happen. Please check them out on the website. We are indebted to them for their financial and ‘in kind’ support.
Mr. Dick DeVos and Patrick Rollins we can’t thank you enough for the use of your Amway hangar for the Welcome Home. It certainly capped off a perfect day with a first class welcome back. It was “over the top” grand and I know all the Veterans and Guardians felt very special.
There are many, many others I need to thank and will probably spend the entire month of July writing thank you letters. I just wanted to give you a sense of the amount of people who helped make this first flight for our Hub, one to remember. It was truly a day like no other and I am deeply grateful to one and all.
Where did the time go! The Board is really looking forward to Flight Day, June 24, 2014. We have all been busy planning a wonderful day for our Veterans. It has been challenging for all of us but it is truly a great experience. We have received many uplifting calls from family members who tell us their Veteran is excited about the trip. And, some of the Guardians have called to say they have talked with their Veteran and BOTH are excited about the day.
At this time we would like to invite family and friends of our Veterans to come to a Welcome Home event at the Amway hangar, at the Grand Rapids airport starting at 7:30PM. There is free parking in the lot just before the short term parking lot. Our plane should arrive at 8:30PM and that will give you some time to make a sign and mingle with others who will be waiting in anticipation of our return. We can use a few extra hands with planning this celebration. If you are interested, call 231.803-4255.
Once our June flight is completed, we will be working on the September 17 flight which will depart from Traverse City.
Thank you everyone who helped make this flying season possible. We couldn’t have done it without you!
80 WWII Veterans will be flying to Washington, D.C. accompanied by Guardians, our Board and our Medical Team. It will be a special day indeed. They will be receiving their confirmation packets this coming week in the mail.
On April 25 we gave Justin Wernette and Al Doerr their “Notice to Report” orders for active duty!!
We surprised both of them at the VFW Post in Mecosta. We interrupted Bingo Night so that Sheriff Todd could announce that they were approved for one last mission, a “Tour of Honor” to Washington, D.C. on June 24, 2014. The Pioneer’s Lonnie Allen captured it for us. Look for something on their website this week!
We are now heavily invested in the planning for the
departure and arrival back at GRR with Miami Air, our chartered plane service. When things have been confirmed, I will post
another update to keep you informed.
In the meantime, mark your calendar for June 24 and plan on coming out to GRR to send us off or when we return to Welcome Home these deserving Americans. We invite you to be a part of this experience with us.
Ferris State University has partnered with us to house our Veteran ‘guests’ and their Guardians on campus, the night before the flight and the night of the flight. The Board of Directors feels this is a great way to insure their safe travel to us, that they get a decent night’s rest, and are accounted for when we leave, all together, for the airport. The students are enthusiastically rounding up volunteers and the staff has been very generous in offering us their support and personnel who are looking forward to meeting our Veterans.
Just think, all these WWII Veterans under one roof, meeting each other for the first time, able to share their stories with each other, knowing exactly what it was like, because they were there! WOW! There will be media coverage of this historic time and I can’t wait to meet all these heroes for the first time. Many I feel I know because we’ve talked extensively on the phone. Many others I’ve reviewed their applications and their experiences are incredible.
Please be sure to check back here often for updates!!
And, if you’d like to help, please fill out a Volunteer application. If you are willing, we want you to be a part of this day. It will be life-changing. And if you can’t volunteer but still want to help, your tax deductible donation will be greatly appreciated. Send it to: Mid-Michigan Honor Flight, P.O. Box 385, Mecosta, MI 49332.
Let’s get them flying!!
We had great coverage for our Town Hall meeting in Mecosta County. Ferris State media students were there filming for their in-house tv channel and will be streaming the footage and interviews. We will post the link as soon as we get it! The Pioneer sent a reporter as well. We had three WWII Veterans with us! Justin Wernette, Bill Duncanson and Jack Korb told the group about their military experience and what an Honor Flight trip means to them.
Two of our Squadron Leaders were also present and we introduced them to those in attendance. Jamey Matheny is our Kent County Leader and Bill Bowne is our Oceana/Mason Leader. I so appreciated their efforts to be there. They got to see the Board in ‘action.’
We just had our March Board meeting and there were many decisions made that have made inroads to our project plan for our Inaugural Flight. I can tell you solidly that we are all focused on doing things right, stepping carefully and being cautious with our decision-making. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Things may not go as we planned, but we are all determined to make this first flight a great experience for our honorees.
One rather large decision we made was to commit to a second Honor Flight in September. Going through the list of deserving Veterans it was disheartening to see how many would be left on our list who were over 90 years old. Yes, you read that right. There are more WWII Veterans on our list in their 90s, than in their 80s. We are compelled to get as many to D.C. as we can in this flying season….
We have a fundraiser coming up April 6 through April 13. With a coupon available by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and asking us to send you some, Bob Evans in Big Rapids will donate 15% of their proceeds from the week for dining there. But you have to give the cashier the coupon so that we get credit! The waitstaff will also be wearing our great looking tee shirt. These can be ordered by picking up a form on the table by the door when you leave. For $22 we will ship you one anywhere in the US. This is practically a painless way to show your support for our project!
You can also help us in a big way by considering a donation to send a WWII Veteran to D.C. You can even do it online. If you belong to a group or organization who’d like us to come and speak, please contact us at 231.803-4255. It costs approximately $500 to send one of our American heroes on a “Tour of Honor.” The more people that hear about us, the more the word gets out, the more Veterans we find to apply, the more funds come in, the more planes we can charter, the more seats we’ll have for our WWII Veterans.
The most difficult phone call I’ve had to answer is from a widow telling me to take her husband’s name off of the list as he has died. We cried together and I expressed my sincere condolences to her. I was so grieve-stricken to know that we won’t be flying with him. And he deserved to go, as all of our men and women who served do. I realize that those phone calls are all a part of this process but they are difficult for me to absorb in the scheme of things of what we are all trying to accomplish. Time is not our friend..
March 2014 Update
We are indeed flying on June 24!!! Already the Board Members have turned their attention to the task list for a successful Inaugural Flight. One of the things we will be concentrating on this month, is reviewing applications for Veterans, Guardians and Medical Staff. It is very important that we carefully follow the guidelines set forth by our national organization, Honor Flight Network. We all want to get it right the very first time!
The aircraft seating, departures and arrivals, and the itinerary will be confirmed at our next Board meeting on March 31. From there we go full speed ahead. The actual Flight Day task list is long and it will take many volunteers to help us accomplish each and every task. We are going to need groups to help at the airport for the Send Off as well as the Welcome Home celebration.
With the initiation of Squadrons, we are better able to focus on our Veterans, their safe flight, and their needs. The Squadrons will continue to find Veterans, make presentations, reach out to schools and fund raise. They will be doing very important work and we appreciate all of their efforts. I’d like to introduce you to the Squadrons who are working diligently to carry on our message.
In Ogemaw County, Mark DeBoer is the Squadron Leader. He can be reached at 989.486-5698. He is assisted by Larry Boyce and John Bennett. The Ogemaw Squadron was our first success story and they have continued to exceed our expectations with their hard work and efforts. If you live in Ogemaw County, and want to learn how you can help, contact Mark.
In Clare County, Dawn Humphrey is the Squadron Leader. She can be reached at 989.386-9556. Dawn is very focused on finding a group of dedicated and capable volunteers who share our vision. If you live in Clare County, contact Dawn.
We have a Traverse City District group that is now being directed by our newest Board Member, Beau Vore. You can reach him at 586.441-8224. If you live in Benzie, Leelenau, Grand Traverse, Antrim or Kalkaska, contact Beau to volunteer.
In Oceana/Mason counties the Squadron Leader is Bill Bowne. He can be reached at 231.873-0557. Bill is looking for volunteers to form a solid team to continue working with the community. Call him if you want to volunteer.
In Montcalm County the Squadron Leader is Gary Copp. He can be reached at 989.235-4514. Gary really appreciates what our WWII Veterans have done for us and is looking for others who share his focus on finding Veterans and helping them apply. If you can help, call him.
In Emmett/Cheboygan/Charlevoix the Squadron Leader is Craig Beachnaw. Craig is fairly new to the Honor Flight family and I’m sure would appreciate help in getting the Squadron up and running. He can be reached at 517.749-6747.
In Kent County Jamey Matheny is the Squadron Leader. Jamey will be heavily involved with the Flight Day events as our closest Squadron to the airport we are flying from. If you’d like to volunteer please contact Jamey at 616.401-1219.
If your county is not listed here and you’d like to help initiate a Squadron, please contact me and we can talk about the steps, materials, coaching and support necessary to get you up and running. We cannot find Veterans if they don’t know we are here for them!
On March 22 at 10 am in Big Rapids we are hosting a Town Hall meeting for Mecosta County. It is our goal to generate interest in building a Squadron and finding volunteers to help us with flight day preparations. The location is the Dept. of Public Safety Building. If you cannot make the meeting and would like to help us, please go to our website and fill out a volunteer application. We’ll get in touch with you. Check our Facebook page for more updates. Squadrons will be posting their events.
We hope you will join us for flight day either by volunteering or just coming out to welcome home our WWII Veterans. It will be an epic day I assure you.
February Update:It is an exciting time for our Hub. We have been fortunate to receive the support and encouragement of Jordan Reses Supply in Ann Arbor who has very generously agreed to provide funding for our Hub. On Feb. 24 the Board will decide if we have enough time, and the funding, to confirm the June 24 flight date.
We have added a new Board Member to our Hub. Our tenth Board Member is a USAF Representative in the five counties surrounding the Grand Traverse area. Beau A. Vore will be our Director of Veterans Outreach and help us make those connections to find Veterans to fly and organizations to participate on Flight Day from the Northwest side of the state.
To date we have two active Squadrons, one in Ogemaw County and one in Clare County. We have a district group in Traverse City. There are three Squadrons working through the process of becoming fully activated in Oceana/Mason Counties, Emmet/Cheboygan/Charlevoix counties, and Montcalm. And, currently I am helping a Squadron in Kent County get up to speed. My goal is to have 10-12 Squadrons actively engaged in our four point focus: Finding Veterans to fly; making presentations; engaging schools and fundraising. They are literally shadowing the work we have been doing since we launched our Hub in October 2013. Their work is very important to our joint goal of flying Veterans to D.C. Once we decide to fly, the Board will take on the many tasks necessary to complete to make this Inaugural “Tour of Honor” a memorable day.
I am greatly encouraged with the reception we have gotten each and every time we make a presentation or hold a Town Hall meeting. I hope to have a Town Hall meeting in Mecosta County in the near future to update the community on our progress. We are going to need many volunteers to help us handle all the necessary steps to a successful trip. We have a good start, but a long way to go.
I invite you to venture on this journey with us and be a part of something so much bigger than ourselves individually. I can assure you, you won’t regret it. We want you to be a part of this special day. Please check our website and Facebook page often for updates.
January update:Well here we are just six months until our Inaugural Flight! So many wonderful things are happening… Our Board was delighted to be named as the “Editor’s Pick” for Citizen of the Year from the Pioneer newspaper. What an awesome honor!! And, we received a grant from Honor Flight Network as well as matching funds from the Mecosta Community Foundation that has helped our bank account immensely.
Two more Board members were added in January. Jeanne Giroux has come on board ready to handle the flight day preparations and planning; Kim Sarasin Dushane will be taking over as Treasurer to relieve
Joe of one of his many responsibilities. Both women have a wealth of experience between them and a great network of contacts. Welcome and thank you for stepping up just when we needed you!
I want to especially acknowledge the efforts of one very talented woman. Lee Ann McCormick developed our website and when it was launched it was so much more than I could have even imagined. She has done a stellar job, with a little help, but I sure wouldn’t have even known where to start. Lee Ann is our Social Media Administrator and just happens to be married to our Vice President, Joe McCormick.
I appreciate very much all the efforts and time the Board Members have invested in our Hub. Each one has made a direct impact on our success thus far. We have much, much more to do though.
Our Hub area covers approximately 51 counties in the state and we have devised a system for amassing volunteer groups for these counties. We will list them as ‘Squadrons” with a Point Person who will assemble a core Team and report to the Hub Director. They will have four principle objectives: Find WWII Vets to apply for an Honor Flight; Public awareness in their county through presentations; reaching out to schools; and fundraising. Squadron Leaders will have a packet of materials sent to them and have a conversation with the Hub Director in detail about all forms, materials, etc. in the packet. When a volunteer base is acquired, the group will meet with the Hub Director in person, by conference call or SKYPE to answer questions, coaching and empower the Squadron to get our message out to their county! It is our hope that this will provide an efficient use of time and networking to reach more of the residents in our Hub area. If you are interested in ‘taking the lead’ in your county, please fill out a volunteer form here indicating that you are interested. We will publish the list and add to it as it grows. That way, if anyone wants to help, they can contact the nearest Squadron Leader to where they live.
We have ambitions to
surpass our goal of funding one flight to Washington, D.C. We want to fly twice!! We are getting more and more applications weekly
and feel a second, or even a third flight is urgently needed to get all these
deserving WWII Veterans to fly. Won’t
you help up with a donation? All of our
Board Members donate their time. We are
a 501c3 organization. Our Fiscal Agent
is the Mid-Michigan Community Action Agency.
Let’s make this happen!!
Check out our Sponsors so far here on the website. They are all so appreciated.
“Their dedication never wavered; neither will ours. Let’s get them flying!”
Our progress continues, exponentially, with the interest we have generated through the media, with presentations, and all the phone calls and contacts from our website. We are grateful to those who have applied to be Guardians but we need more. Please tell your family and friends about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It will be a day like no other. We are hoping to take 60-70 Vets and the same number of Guardians on our Inaugural Flight in June.
We are grouping volunteers into networks covering various counties and could use more help here. If you have an interest in “leading the charge” as they say, I will work with you on planning events, giving presentations and provide you with materials that will aid you. Our focus is primarily to reach WWII Veterans and have them apply.
We need School Ambassadors to reach out to schools. it is so important to me that our school children fully appreciate what our WWII Veterans did to secure their freedom and the America they know today. Very soon that chapter in our history will be closed and sealed forever. These extraordinary men and women changed our destiny and in fact, the World. I have been constantly awestruck meeting them whenever I’ve had the opportunity.
Fundraising to date has been fast and furious. We are reaching every nook and cranny we can with the limited amount of time and staff, but utilizing every bit of information we can glean to find the right people who share our vision. I’m asking you to consider a tax deductible year end donation to our project. The more funds we secure, the more flights we can take, and the more seats we will have for our Veterans.
"Their dedication never faltered and neither should ours."
This is also personal to me because I have an Uncle who served in the Navy during WWII on the USS Arizona when it was bombed at Pearl Harbor. He survived, got to attend the Memorial at Pearl Harbor, but did not live to see the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. Sadly, I also lost my Father in 2000. He was a pilot in the Army Air Corps. at the tail end of WWII and the beginning of the Korean Conflict. He never knew about the Memorial in Washington, D.C. I have a lot of military in my family. I have the highest regard for those who served. I want to do my part in saying “thank you” on behalf of a grateful nation.
They are true heroes and deserve this “Tour of Honor.”
In 2013 we applied to be officially recognized as an Honor Flight Hub by the Honor Flight Network and today we are in hot pursuit of funds, and making plans for a flight in late Spring/early Summer of 2014 followed by a second flight in early Fall. We are a 501c3 organization, and your tax deductible donation will help get us there. We are well along in our planning stages but I am reaching out to you for your help. We need more people to come forward.
Won’t you help our Hub give these great Americans a day they will never forget? Please consider this my personal invitation to join us. You will find information for Veterans applications, Guardian applications and Volunteer applications on this site. You may also make a donation online. I promise you, you will not regret this. And then you too will have the satisfaction of knowing that you helped to get these deserving Veterans to see the memorials erected in their honor in Washington, D.C.