By Barrie Barber
DAYTON — Honor Flight Network will join the ranks of Earth orbiting and moon walking astronauts, the Tuskegee Airmen and the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders at the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
The organization that flies veterans to Washington, D.C., from throughout the nation to tour monuments and memorials in the nation’s capital was chosen for the Milton Caniff “Spirit of Aviation” award, the Aviation Hall of Fame has announced.
“Just to even mention us for the same award is so humbling I cannot believe we are going to be joining those ranks,” said Earl Morse, founder of Honor Flight. “It is so humbling for all of us in the program.”
Honor Flight first took wing in 2005 when six planes flew a dozen World War II veterans out of the Springfield-Buckley Municipal Airport to Washington, D.C., to see the memorial to the war they served in.
Since then, the program based in Springfield has expanded exponentially. Honor Flight has flown about 100,000 veterans from nearly 120 “hubs” to Washington, D.C., since the first flight lifted off from the Miami Valley, said Morse of Enon.
“It’s speaks loud and clear to the commitment of thousands of volunteers across the nation that are doing everything we can to get veterans to their memorial before they pass away,” the physician’s assistant and Air Force retiree said.
Honor Flight will receive the award Dec. 17 at an Aviation Trail Inc. ceremony honoring the 109th anniversary of the Wright brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina.
“It’s been a huge campaign and so many veterans and their families have benefited from it and continue to,” said Ron Kaplan, National Aviation Hall of Fame enshrinement director. “They really are a worthy group to be added to that roster.” The Hall of Fame has given the award every year since 1981.
The National Aviation Hall of Fame, inside the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, is set to announce its 2013 inductees the same day. The gathering also will recognize Bill McNabb, an Aviation Trail president who was a pilot for Honor Flight, among other roles.
The awards will be given at a ceremony at the Presidential Banquet Center, 4548 Presidential Drive, Kettering. Tickets to the public event cost $50 per person. Veterans who have flown on Honor Flight treks will attend the ceremony, said Helen Kavanaugh Jones, vice president of Aviation Trail Inc. They also will tour the Air Force museum and attend a wreath laying ceremony at Huffman Hill, said Betty Darst, a Hall of Fame vice president of enshrinement.
To make a reservation to the dinner by Dec. 11, send a check to Aviation Trail, Inc., P.O. Box 633, Wright Brothers Branch, Dayton, Ohio 45409. State a preference for a chicken, prime rib or vegetarian meal.