With nearly 40 years of experience in engineering consulting, Bob Warren knows the importance of perseverance. The son of a World War II veteran and WWII history enthusiast, he understands the sacrifice our veterans made for this country. And in his spare time, he has found a way to give back to those who have sacrificed so much for our country.
It all started eight years ago while Bob was watching the news. A Stars and Stripes Honor Flight Homecoming was featured in that news program. It got Bob thinking,
“With my interest in WWII, my willingness to help others and as a tribute to my father, why not volunteer to help this organization?”
The next day Bob signed up as an Honor Flight volunteer. Honor Flight is a national program that flies WWII and Korean veterans to the war memorials in Washington, D.C. at no charge to them. At the end of the day, they return to Milwaukee to a heroes’ welcome and a homecoming celebration they never had when they returned from the war.
Founded in 2005 in Ohio, Honor Flight now has over 120 hubs nationwide with six hubs in Wisconsin. Stars and Stripes Honor Flight is the Southeastern Wisconsin branch of the National Honor Flight Network.
Honor Flight gives veterans the opportunity to visit the memorials constructed in their honor. These flights are free to the veterans, thanks to the generous contributions of hundreds of donors. None of these veterans asked for this recognition and appreciation they are shown, but it honors men and women who unselfishly gave to protect this country.“My experience with Honor Flight has taught me that every day is a bonus.”
Joining the Honor Flight team was a win-win for Bob. He says being able to serve these veterans and hear their stories is absolutely amazing. He has talked with heroes who landed on the beaches of Normandy and heroes who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He notes that each story has its own degree of sacrifice and suffering. Every veteran Bob speaks with quickly reminds him that they are not the heroes,
“…the true heroes are still over there.”
As captured in a documentary film about the Honor Flight Network called Honor Flight, thanking our service men and women is a very fulfilling experience. As the film portrays, the preparation for each flight is like a military operation in itself. There is a lot to do to get the trips organized and coordinated for this one day trip to Washington D.C.
Hundreds of volunteers show up at the airport at 3:00 in the morning in preparation of the arrival of the hundreds of veterans at 5:00 AM. From wheelchair teams at curbside, lanyard distribution, photo helpers, breakfast or just someone to listen to their story – it is all part of the volunteers tasks. On the trip home, there is a “mail call,” in which the veterans receive genuine, heart-felt letters from friends and family. This simple gesture gives the veterans a hint of what is to come once they return home, as there is a bigger celebration waiting for them at the airport. The veterans are celebrated and welcomed home by friends, relatives and strangers in a homecoming they never had when they returned from the war. This emotion-filled journey is well worth it, and shows our veterans the love and support they have always deserved. In its beginning, Honor Flight adopted a motto from one of the first veterans that flew on an Honor Flight. The motto is comes from what the veteran said after suffering three months at the hands of the Germans in a prisoner-of-war camp. This horrible experience made him realize how precious freedom and life is and that “EVERY DAY IS A BONUS.” This is what Bob takes from Honor Flight and how he tries to live his life every day.
If you would like to volunteer your time to support this mission or want to learn more about it, please visit the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight Network’s website.