In May 2005, six small planes flew out of Springfield, Ohio, carrying 12 World War II veterans bound for the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
This inaugural Honor Flight Tour was the first of many that would allow for over 115,000 veterans to be flown, free of charge, to visit their memorials. Last Friday, more than nine years later, Southwest Airlines carried 41 veterans through the Honor Flight DFW Chapter on one of the first nonstop Honor Flights from Dallas Love Field to Reagan National Airport, made possible with the lifting of the Wright Amendment.
Southwest Airlines has been the official commercial carrier of the Honor Flight Network for six years and has had the privilege of carrying over 5,800 veterans and Guardians to experience their memorial. Our flexible flight schedule and Legendary Customer Service makes the journey to Washington, D.C. an easier and more comfortable experience for our veterans. Plus, our Employees love participatingwith such a worthwhile program.
The Honor Flight program was developed by Earl Morse, a physician assistant and retired Air Force Captain whose goal was to give World War II veterans the opportunity to visit the World War II Memorial when their own resources may not have allowed them to do so. Morse attracted the support of several other pilots who offered to fly these veterans to Washington, D.C. and help them tour the monuments, free of charge. The responses from both the veterans and the pilots were overwhelming—soon, so many veterans wanted to participate that commercial airlines were exclusively used to accommodate many more veterans per flight.
In 2008, Southwest Airlines joined the effort and, to date, has donated nearly $2,400,000 worth of travel to the Honor Flight Network. Because of the generosity of our Company, the Honor Flight Network now has more flexibility and opportunity than ever before.
Two years ago, one of our own retired Pilots, David “Bubba” Edens, had the privilege of serving as a Guardian (or personal escort) on an Honor Flight with his father-in-law. Bubba believes that the Honor Flight program is a marvelous gift to give our veterans, as well as a way to recognize them as true American Heroes. During his time as a Flight Manager in Flight Operations, Bubba assisted with the coordination of Southwest Airlines Honor Flights. These Honor Flights do not only serve to honor the veterans onboard, but they also allow the veterans to pay their respects to fallen comrades. During their tour, Bubba noted that one of the most significant, deeply moving moments was when the veterans visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
It is with great pride and respect that Southwest Airlines continues to be the official commercial carrier of the Honor Flight Network. Thank you to all of our Employees who have worked on an Honor Flight or contributed to making an Honor Flight a meaningful and impactful experience for our veterans.