Volunteers from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), Navy Medicine Professional Development Center and Naval Support Activity Bethesda escorted World War II veterans around the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Saturday, during Joint Services Make a Difference Day.
Make a difference Day is a national day of community service that is celebrated annually. A highlight of this event in Washington, D.C. is the Honor Flight.
Since 2005, Honor Flight has been making flights from all around the country in order to give World War II veterans the opportunity to experience the memorial. The idea for Honor Flight was conceived by Earl Morse, a physician assistant and retired Air Force captain, as a way of honoring the veterans he took care of.
“My experience in working with World War II veterans or working with the Department of Veterans Affairs, I have found that all members of the military from all generations are incredible selfless people that are willing to give everything for this nation,” said Morse.
“[World War II Veterans] are the most humble, most appreciative and most genuinely patriotic people you will ever meet. When I say patriotic, you don't have to go to a World War II veteran and say, 'Freedom isn't free thanks for what you've done,'” said Morse. “They know firsthand. They have seen with their own eyes the horrific and suffocating costs associated with all of us being free and living free.”
Morse continued by saying he imagined if you were to approach a World War II veteran and say, “Thank you for your service you're my hero,” they would likely answer, “I am not a hero. The heroes never made it home. The heroes their stars are over on that wall.”
Since its inception, the Honor Flight program has grown from the use of six small planes to the use of commercial airliners, thanks in part to Jeff Miller, co-founder of Honor Flight, whose idea it was to charter commercial airlines.
“The main reason it is so successful is because not only do we bring them over in the small planes but we started buying seats on commercial carriers,” said Morse. “On one weekend alone, we had four 747s out here loaded with World War II Veterans.”
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Shuan Kestner a volunteer from WRNMMC described the day at the monument as a good time to hear war stories from a veteran.
“There is nothing better than getting to spend time with those veterans and their families and with our active duty military components as well,” said Kestner. “I don't think a lot of them [World War II veterans] understand just how appreciative we are for what they gave us 60 plus years ago.”