RACINE — It’s often said that amazing things happen when people come together for the greater good.
That certainly was the case at the Racine American Legion Post 602 on the afternoon of April 22. Racine Chapter #134 Order of the Eastern Star organized and sponsored a dinner where 100 percent of the proceeds would benefit Meigs County Veterans participating in an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. The dinner was held from 2-4 p.m., and in that short amount of time the Eastern Star chapter raised $1,325 for the upcoming honor flight.
“I dedicated my theme this year to veterans, and I wanted to do something that would connect with our community,” said Ruth Ann Fox, Worthy Matron of Racine Chapter. “It means a lot to these Veterans that get to go that would normally not have the ability to be able to go [to Washington, D.C.]. I am very thankful that we have a loving Eastern Star Chapter in Racine and that we have such a loving community who support anything that goes on, especially if it is for our Veterans,” Fox continued.
JoAnne Newsome, a regional Honor Flight advocate who was on hand to receive the check, spoke about honor flights and the process behind them. “Veterans are shown all of the monuments and memorials of Washington, D.C., and today’s donation assists in Meigs County Veterans’ costs for pre-flight hotel rooms and evening meals before we take off. Honor Flight Network furnishes everything from the plane, fuel, and pilots. All Honor Flight pilots and air crew are military Veterans or military families and all donate their time for these Veterans’ trip. A lot of good people came out today to support this amazing fundraiser. I am thankful to Racine Eastern Star Chapter for doing this for our Veterans.”
David Fox, Worthy Patron of Racine Chapter added his statements of appreciation of Veterans. “I grew up during the Vietnam Era, and a lot of those men and women had a rough time coming back.” The Honor Flight Network was co-founded by Earl Morse, 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, Ohio. 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 May 21, 2005, six planes flew 12 veterans to Washington, D.C., for the first Honor Flight. A combination of small planes and commercial flights were used to transport a total of 126 WWII veterans during the first year of offering Honor Flights.
In late 2005, Jeff Miller, a dry-cleaning company owner in Hendersonville, N.C., inspired by Morse, had a similar idea but on a larger scale — to charter entire commercial jets. Miller, 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 HonorAir 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, D.C., at the first “Summit” and merged Honor Flight and HonorAir 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 Morse and 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.
The Order of the Eastern Star is the largest fraternal organization in the world to which both men and women may belong. Worldwide, there are over 500,000 members. The organization was created in the United States in the early nineteenth century to allow women to join with their Masonic relatives in promoting the values and charitable purposes that are such an important part of the Masonic fraternity. While the Order of the Eastern Star has evolved over the centuries, it still remains rooted in its charitable endeavors and fraternal fellowship.
The organization is open to women, 18 years of age or older, who are related to Masons in good standing. Male members of the order must be Masons in good standing. In addition, women who were or are active members of the International Order of Job’s Daughters or the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls (youth organizations sponsored by Masonic Lodges and Eastern Star Chapters) may petition for membership. Rainbow or Job’s Daughter petitioners must have been active in their youth group for at least three (3) years or have reached “majority,” and be at least 18 years of age. Anyone interested in or with questions about joining The Order of the Eastern Star may call Ruth Ann Fox at (740) 247-4505.
Jordan Pickens is a Social Studies Teacher at Southern High School and a member of the Racine Chapter #134 Order of the Eastern Star.