In 2018, Alison Huber's father was flown on an Honor Flight from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Washington, D.C. Her father, a Cold War veteran, served in the Army Special Forces in the United States Army Security Agency. Alison’s brother accompanied their father on the journey, and Alison surprised her father by meeting them both in D.C. Together they spent the day with a group of guardians and veterans touring the Nation's capital. Upon returning to her home in Stokesdale, Alison asked, "Why don't we do this here?"
Earl Morse began the Honor Flight program in 2004. As a physician's assistant working in Ohio, he asked his older patients if they'd ever been to Washington, D.C., to see the National World War II Memorial. He realized quickly that most of the veterans had not seen the memorial. As a retired Air Force Captain and private pilot, he began to fly veterans, which ultimately led to the creation of the Honors Flight program (Triad Honor Flight n.d.).
In 2018, Alison was unaware that the Honor Flight program existed in the Triad region. After a bit of research, she learned that a program had previously operated in her area and that it had been incredibly successful. However, at that time, there was not an active program in place. Inspired by an elderly veteran at her church, who at 97 had never been able to participate in an honor flight, Alison reached out to the national organization and requested to revive the local hub. Honor Flights' national office told her that she would need a phone number, a website, and a board to make it happen; that is precisely what Alison did.
In 2020, Alison worked with 11 other passionate people to start the board and raise awareness and funding. She stresses that today's successes depend entirely on the commitment and energy of these community members, as well as Rotary District 7690, whose members had been instrumental in the early days of Triad Flight of Honor and were equally committed to reviving it.
On November 11, 2021, the first Honor Flight out of Greensboro held 94 veterans and flew ten years to the date of the last flight out of Greensboro. Alison's mother and father surprised her in Greensboro to celebrate the occasion.
Alison is overcome with emotion when she describes how deeply rewarding this experience has been to her, the veterans, and their families. For many, the experience is therapeutic; it is a time to reminisce, remember and reflect. Alison shared a story of a veteran who broke down after getting off the plane. He told Alison that he had never been proud to be a veteran before that day. After serving in Vietnam, he lost family and friends, returned to the United States, and was spit on. He had been through a horrific experience, and the opportunity to connect with veterans through such a cathartic experience changed his perspective.
Alison also has stories of serendipity and (as she calls these moments) “God Winks.” During an Honor Flight this past April, her daughter served as a guardian to a Cold War veteran who (like Alison's father) served in the Army Special Forces. Although they'd never met, Alison's daughter and this veteran realized that Alison's father was at the same place at the same time for the same mission. Alison's father has now connected with this veteran, and despite the decades it took to meet, they now find a connection around a stunning twist of fate.
In preparing for that April flight, Alison thought she had all seats filled. Towards the end of planning, she received a call from a hospice nurse informing her that a veteran had just been diagnosed with 4 inoperable brain tumors. When first asked, Alison thought there would be no way to accommodate the veteran. However, after recounting, she realized that there were two spots. Because she miscounted, she could get the veteran on the flight.
Early in the history of the Triad Flight of Honor, participation was limited to WWII veterans. Today, it is open to all veterans 65 and older, whether they served in WWII, the Korean War, Cold War, or Vietnam. Triad Honor Flight is driven 100% by volunteers, and every dollar donated goes to Triad flights' operation. During the flight, the veterans will have a guardian. Often these guardians are family members or pastors. Each flight has 189 people on board, including the veterans, guardians, and medical volunteers.
The guardian is an escort to the veteran who pays their way. We fundraise for every veteran to go for free but for us is 600 dollars – their role is to keep the veterans safe all day. It is someone to look after them for the day. Half of the veterans take a guardian who is a family member 18-70 who can't be a spouse or a girlfriend – ideally one generation or below. Perhaps a son, daughter, or pastor. For the flights, we have 189 people (guardians, veterans, and medical volunteers).
Although Alison's title is Executive Director, she calls herself "Chief Passionate Volunteer." She stresses that this program wouldn't be impossible without outpouring volunteers and community donors. To get involved as a participant, donor, or volunteer, you may learn more at the organization's website: https://triadhonorflight.org/