By Pete MacKenzie, Executive Director, Honor Flight Columbus
The fact that these people did not demand this, did not ask for this, indeed did not want this, is the embodiment of the driving force that makes HFC so strong. Service before self. It is a great lesson for all of us.
HFC is growing, it must. We have communities to serve and a mission to execute. America’s senior Veterans DESERVE it. An Honor Flight is a small token, a pittance really, that we pay toward the debt that we owe.
2020 will usher in new challenges, no doubt. The good news is the challenges pale in the face of the impact of our work. Rejoice in that. Celebrate that. Take a cue from Bill and Bobbi, which brings to mind a quote from my Commander in Chief during my service:
“There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit.” – Ronald Reagan
Today, we have 1,500 of America’s senior Veterans who have taken the first step, which as I think we can all agree, is often the hardest step, to apply. To take a line from our keynote speaker this weekend (if you missed it, you missed a good one!), It would behoove us to execute the HFC mission to our fullest capability.
That is what the Board intends to do, and that’s what I intend to do. I hope can join us for some of our work.
If your company or group is interested in contributing, or arranging for an authorized Honor Flight Columbus speaker or media interview, contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-284-4987.
Bill and Bobbi Richards assembled an all-star team to form the original working Board of Honor Flight Columbus in 2007. At the 12th Annual Honor Flight Columbus Reunion on Saturday, November 16, 2019, the organization recognized original Board and
the Founders of Honor Flight Columbus.
Pete MacKenzie, Executive Director, presided over the recognition ceremony; his presentation follows.
The mission of Honor Flight Columbus (“HFC”) is:
These 8 are special. They are the people, the team, who did the work, planning, and executing the mission of HFC in the beginning. These men and women are the visionaries who recognized the power, the importance, and the role that HFC mission plays. These are the individuals, who came together to advance and execute that mission. These are the individuals who put their names in ink on paper, and met, and planned, and established HFC almost 13 years ago.
There are dozens of Volunteers who were present and helped with the work in the beginning. Working from Bill and Bobbi’s living, dining room, and driveway. On flight day on the ground and in the air. In some instances, you can see these people actively volunteering in and around HFC today. Dave Schott, Bob Horner, and Larry Stone, Terry Copley and Chuck Murray, may they rest in peace, for example, among many, many others.
These 8 are the true and legitimate Founders of Honor Flight Columbus. HFC officially, loudly, proudly, and publicly, recognize this indisputable fact, and honor each of our Founders with a beautiful, naturally distinctive, engraved, and unique commemorative wooden turned plate.
The citation reads:
Bill & Bobbi Richards,
Louis Borth, Julie Brightwell, Jim Downing, Roger Dyer, Marta Morris, and Ruth Parise.
To honor America’s senior veterans with a trip to Washington D.C. to visit the nation’s memorials. To help them share their stories. To celebrate and affirm their service and homecoming.
Honor Flight Columbus hereby recognizes our founders, for their exceptional foresight, service, and dedication to America’s Veterans. The impact we continue to realize as a result of your vision is noteworthy and immeasurable.
Over the past 13 years, HFC has flown 102 missions flown to Washington DC. Transporting 6,836 senior Veterans.
HFC flew 924 of America’s senior Veterans in 2019. Safely. With honor and respect.
In the last two years, HFC has traveled on a Sunday (a very special flight on a special day Veterans’ Day 2018), and on a Tuesday, and on a new airline, to a new airport. HFC has even flown two planes on a single day. HFC has grown our pool of experienced Guardians from 80 to 360. We have transported 1,615 of America’s senior Veterans (that’s nearly a quarter of the all-time total Veterans served). HFC is growing and building organizational capacity.
The bottom line is HFC is flying more veterans, more safely, than ever before. There are plenty of Veterans, Guardians, Volunteers, and funding. By every possible metric, HFC is healthier today, stronger today, more vibrant today, than ever before.
YOU did this. Veterans, Guardians, Volunteers, Staff, Sponsors, Donors, Friends, and Families. All of you.
Thank you Veterans. Thank you for your Service. Thank you for your example. Thank you for trusting us to take you on the Honor Flight journey. Thank you for helping us spread the word and convince your brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends, comrades, even strangers in the supermarket to take an Honor Flight. Without your endorsement and support, HFC would wither away. HFC is receiving applications at the rate of 20 per week.
To all the Volunteers who make the Honor Flight experience happen, THANK YOU. Your willingness to take time off work, to come to the airport at oh-dark-thirty, to attack with vengeance the thankless jobs and tasks (like wheelchair maintenance or moving trashcans and chairs) to make the Honor Flight experience one of a kind, THANK YOU.
It wasn’t always like this. Honor Flight operated a few small missions using commercial flights through Columbus in 2005 and 2006.
By 2007, Bill and Bobbi Richards recognized the importance of Honor Flight, and organized, coordinated, and executed Honor Flights over and over. Sometimes by hook and by crook. Buoyed by promises and if-comes. Financed on personal credit cards. The early years were hard. They did have help. They identified, recruited, and organized a team of leaders, passionate patriots, professionals, doers.
By no stretch of the imagination did they always get along. But the mission was strong.
This group collectively put their names on documents (incorporation, bylaws, tax forms, registrations, all the important binding things that are needed to establish an organization as a going concern). THIS group committed to form, lead, and run an organization committed to executing and advancing the Honor Flight Columbus mission. In fact, this group became the first hub in the newly formed Honor Flight Network. They assumed this important responsibility of leadership. And they just did it.
It is worth being reminded about one of the most critical elements of HFC. The organization lives and breathes of the standard of service over self. Bill and Bobbi could care less about any discussion of who founded what, when, and why. They do not care. It isn’t why they did any of it. To this day they continue to be devoted entirely to the philosophy of “It’s all about the Vets.”
HFC does not have a Hall of Fame.
Here’s a trick question: If HFC did have a Hall of Fame, who do you think would be in it? That’s right, our Veterans.
HFC is not about me. It is not about President John Shore. It is not about the Board as a whole or any individual member. It is not about Bill or Bobbi, or any of the other Founders individually or as a group. It is not about the first and most experienced volunteer, or the greenest new volunteer. It is not about the Guardian who has flown 50 times, or the one who just took their first flight.
It is all about the Veterans. Period. The real HFC folks don’t just say the words, they live and act them.
The HFC mission is simple and sublime. It is the embodiment of what is good and right, and It endures. It resonates deeply with all our communities, and touches souls. What we do here matters.
The seeds planted by the true Founders of Honor Flight Columbus were viable. The saplings grew into trees and continue to grow. Branching out into new communities and burying roots deep into the cracks of our bedrock. Belayed by a trunk, strong and fast.
This weekend, HFC reclaimed its past. We firmly, deliberately, and clearly planted a flag in truth and by doing so, do something patently out of the ordinary for HFC. Utterly un-Honor Flight. We recognize, honor, share and celebrate a piece of our heritage. Why? Because it is really important, as an organization, to KNOW our heritage and OWN our past. It is ours. We will not permit it to be traded or stolen. Our Founders, much like our Veterans, DESERVE this.
So for a fleeting moment this weekend we broke with our rule and looked in the mirror and fully recognize the rightful bearers of the title ‘Founder’ of Honor Flight Columbus.
These quiet, humble, crusaders, who have never tried to take credit for anything, nor wanted credit for anything, who have always deferred to the organization, with continuous and outrageous cascading acts epitomizing service before self.