WASHINGTON — The co-founder of Honor Flight was personally recognized Thursday by President Donald Trump for his dedication to U.S. military veterans.
Earl Morse, a retired Air Force captain, was mentioned in the president's speech during his July Fourth "Salute to America" event held in Washington, D.C., and the two shared a moment of gratitude by saluting one another.
"After retiring from the Air Force, Earl worked at a VA hospital in Ohio," President Trump said during his remarks. "Earl found that many World War II veterans could not afford to visit their memorial on the National Mall, so Earl began the very first Honor Flights, that have now brought over 200,000 World War II heroes to visit America's monument. Earl, thank you. We salute you. Thank you."
Morse, 58, established Honor Flight in 2005 with small business owner Jeff Miller. It's now a network of nonprofits committed to providing zero-cost trips for U.S. military veterans to see their war memorials in our nation's capital.
He first realized the disconnect separating the tributes from their honorees while at the VA in Springfield, Ohio, where many of his patients were unable to make the 360-mile journey to D.C. As a pilot, he proposed flying them there.
A year later, after having pitched the idea to hundreds of private pilots, six small planes flew 12 veterans to D.C. for the first Honor Flight in May 2005. By the end of that year, a total of 126 World War II veterans had been brought to the capital.
Miller, simultaneously, formed HonorAir in North Carolina and began flying scores of veterans to D.C. on chartered jets.
Morse and Miller combined forces in 2007 to create the Honor Flight Network, which in 2017 consisted of 140 regional hubs across the country.
Morse and his wife, Clarice, live in Bangor, where he's employed as a physician assistant at the VA clinic near Saxl Park.
Earl Morse of Honor Flight
Morse's father served in the Korean War and Vietnam War, while Miller's served in World War II.
They were both honored in spring 2008 with a Presidential Citizens Medal, nominated by Sen. Bob Dole and presented by President George W. Bush.
Below, you can watch President Trump's "Salute to America" event in its entirety: