Editor's note: The following press release was submitted by the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.
Stars and Stripes Honor Flight kicks off its flying season for 2013 on Saturday, April 27. This flight, on one chartered Delta 757 aircraft, will take 110 WWII veterans from southeastern Wisconsin on a one day free trip to Washington, DC to see their memorials. This is the 17th Honor Flight out of Milwaukee and will be the last flight exclusively for WWII veterans. The next Honor Flight on June 8 will feature about 25 percent Korean War veterans in addition to WWII veterans.
"We're excited to transition our mission from WWII veterans to Korean War veterans this year, " said Paula Nelson, President of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. "We will continue to give priority to our WWII veterans, but this really is a success story. Thanks to all the fabulous support we have received from the community and our loyal sponsors, we are able to raise the funds to keep flying veterans beyond our original mission of WWII veterans."
In another transition, Chairman and Founder of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, Joe Dean, has announced that he will step down from an active role with the organization after Memorial Day. This Saturday's flight marks his last one as Chairman, but Dean will continue to serve at the pleasure of the board at special events. "After this Saturday we can say Operation Resolve is truly Operation Resolved. We tackled a huge wait list of elderly heroes who wanted to take an Honor Flight. Now, after 17 flights and 2,560 WWII veterans flown from southeastern Wisconsin flown, we can say our mission is officially accomplished."
Under Dean's leadership, Stars and Stripes Honor Flight launched four other Honor Flight hubs statewide that have flown another 2,500 veterans. He also spearheaded a documentary film project that set a world record for the largest film screening ever when it premiered at Miller Park on August 11. Honor Flight is currently being used by Honor Flight hubs nationwide to help raise awareness and funds so that more veterans will get a chance to take their trip. A distribution company will be releasing the film nationwide later next month. Dean also established a permanent memorial to Wisconsin veterans at the new Coal Dock park in Port Washington where a replica of the Wisconsin Pillar from the WWII Memorial now stands.
224 WWII veterans, guardians and medical staff will report to Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport at 5:15 am Saturday, April 27 and return at 8:00 pm. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend the “Homecoming Celebration” in the airport’s main terminal.
Honor Flight is a national program with 123 hubs from coast to coast. The WWII Memorial did not open until 2004 and many veterans are unable to visit it without assistance. According to the VA, a WWII veteran dies every 90 seconds in the US. The average age of a WWII veteran is 89 years old. Nationally, Honor Flight has taken 125,000 veterans to see their memorials.