the son of a Korean and Vietnam War veteran, and Jeff Miller, a small business owner and son of a WWII veteran.
Earl Morse, Physician Assistant and Retired Air Force Captain, worked in a Department of Veteran Affairs clinic in Springfield, OH. After the National World War II Memorial was completed in 2004, he realized many of his WWII patients would not be able to travel to DC to visit their memorial. Morse, himself a pilot, offered to fly with two veterans to Washington. In January of 2005, he pitched the idea to about 300 private pilots at his local Air Force aeroclub. He proposed the pilots would pay for the flights and personally escort veterans around the city. Eleven additional pilots volunteered. By January 2005, a board was formed, funds were raised, and other volunteers had joined. On 21 May 2005, six small planes flew 12 veterans to Washington, DC for the first Honor Flight. A combination of small planes and commercial flights were used to transport a total of 126 WWII veterans that first year.
In late 2005, Jeff Miller, a dry-cleaning company owner in Hendersonville, NC, inspired by Morse, had a similar idea but on a larger scale – to charter entire commercial jets! Jeff, the son of a World War II veteran and nephew of a B-24 pilot who died in the war, had been a charter member of the National World War II Memorial Foundation. Miller was also concerned that local WWII veterans would never visit their new memorial. Miller formed Honor Air and began flying great numbers of WWII veterans from the Asheville Regional Airport using enormous chartered jets. By the end of 2006, HonorAir had flown more than 300 WWII veterans to their memorial. His actions revolutionized the mass movement of these senior heroes to Washington D.C.
In February of 2007, Morse and Miller met in Washington, DC at the first “Summit” and merged Honor Flight and Honor Air into what is now known as the Honor Flight Network. By 2017, there were 140 Honor Flight Network regional hubs across the United States. Now, HFN is escorting WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans to see their memorials in DC. At the end of the 2017 flying season, the network has escorted over 200,000 veterans to their memorials, free of cost to the veterans.
In the Spring of 2008, Senator Bob Dole nominated both Earl Morse and Jeff Miller for the prestigious Presidential Citizens Medal. The medal was awarded to Morse and Miller by President George W. Bush in the Oval Office in December of 2008.