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Third General Session

Honor Flight Founder Calls for Service

As the 81 st Joint Annual Conference was coming to a close Sunday afternoon, guests were treated to a memorable and emotional message of service and devotion, powerfully delivered by Captain Earl Morse, founder of the Honor Flight Network.

Captain Morse’s moving tribute to U.S. Armed Forces members was a fitting conclusion to the three-day weekend, which saw conference attendee’s focus on a variety of self-improvement, professional development, and leadership-related workshops and presentations.

During the third general session, three standout individuals were also honored for their service to the education community. Pam Burgeson, of Geneva School District 304, was announced as the 2013 recipient of the Holly Jack Outstanding Service Award for district secretaries. The Illinois Association of School Business Officials recognized Allen Albus as this year’s Ronald E. Everett Distinguished Service Award winner. And Brenda Murphy, board president of Community Consolidated School District 62, was named the 2013 Thomas Lay Burroughs Award winner, which honors the state’s top school board president.

The theme of the final general session of the 2013 IASB/IASA/IASBO Joint Annual Conference continued to focus on “service,” with Captain Morse briefly speaking about his own time in the military and recounting a number of emotionally charged stories from veteran servicemen and women who have participated in the Honor Flight program.

Morse joined the Air Force in 1977 and became a flight medic. He later trained and became an Air Force physician and later got his private pilot license. Morse retired from the military in 1998 and went on to work as a physician assistant at the V.A. Clinic in Springfield, Ohio. It was here that Earl developed the concept for what would eventually become the renowned Honor Flight Network.

After hearing numerous accounts of veterans in the VA clinic not able to visit their memorials in Washington, D.C., Captain Morse enlisted the help of fellow pilots. In January of 2005, Morse and other pilots flew the first 12 World War II veterans in six small planes to visit the memorials.

“I started this program for the World War II veterans. They are my heroes and I just love hanging out with them,” said Morse. “World War II vets are the most stoic, humble, appreciative, patriotic, and selfless people I have ever met in my life. What they did, collectively and literally, saved the world. All of Europe, all of the Pacific, and all of America are free because of their service.”

Morse and others involved with Honor Flight faced a number of challenges when starting the program, dealing with veterans on fixed incomes and with health issues and limited family help. In the first year, Morse and fellow pilots had flown 136 veterans to see their memorials. Another 700 who signed up were put on a waiting list, and 80 vets had passed away waiting for their turn.

However, once local communities began to find out about the program, additional funding and help began to stream in. In speaking to attendees in the third general session audience, Captain Morse acknowledged the contributions of the education community.

“Schools got behind the program. School kids and boards got the word out and held fundraisers. Nobody enacts more change than the school community,” Morse said.

Since 2005, Morse and fellow pilots have successfully transported over 110,000 World War II, Korean, and Vietnam veterans free of charge to visit their memorials. The Honor Flight Network continues to expand, with centers presently located in 120 cities throughout 40 states.

In his closing remarks, Morse issued several challenges to those in attendance. “Find a better way to bring the values of selflessness, service, patriotism, sacrifice, commitment, resolve, and compassion to our youth. And find a better way to bring hope, joy, recognition, and honor to a segment of your community that thought they were forgotten.”


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