Waterford, Maine

Whichards passionate about Honor Flight

The Whichard family of Waterford and Clark, NJ is passionate about Honor Flight Maine and its commitment to veterans.

Ever since they were first introduced to the program last year, they have been hooked. Bruce and Arlene along with son Jared summer on McWain Pond. During those warmer months, they are deeply involved in Waterford community activities.

Jared teaches sailing at Birch Rock Camp. In May of 2015, he was asked to be a Guardian for Ralph Sylvester of Auburn, who is a member of the Waterford Congregational Church. Bruce also volunteered to be a Guardian on the flight.

Whichards

HONOR FLIGHT - Earl Morse, founder of Honor Flight Network, is shown with Ralph Sylvester of Auburn, left and Bruce and Jared Whichard of Waterford and Clark, NJ.                           Arlene Whichard photo

“We had a great time but being a Guardian and pushing a wheelchair for over five miles around the monuments and memorials is a lot of work,” Bruce said. “We arrived back at the Portland Jetport to a hero’s welcome, something many of these World War II vets never received 70 years ago.

“After that May trip, Arlene, Jared and I knew that Honor Flight Maine was and is a GREAT organization to get involved in,” Bruce said.

He and Jared were in Portland Nov. 17 where they volunteered for the one-day fund drive at the WCSH-6 studio. The telecast that ran from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. raised nearly $100,000 for Honor Flight Maine.It costs $700 to fund a veteran round-trip with HFM. Anyone wishing to donate or learn more about the program can visit www.honorflightmaine.org.

Arlene, a nurse, has flown on two trips as a Guardian. With her medical background, she is a great asset with the pre-screening. She has written the application process for both Veterans and Guardians, makes numerous phone calls and does all the preflight mailings. 

Bruce & Arlene at Iwo Jima monument
Bruce & Arlene at the Iwo Jima monument.

Bruce, recently retired from the merchant marine, handles logistics for HFM outside of Maine, researching new places to visit and eat as well as scheduling buses, arrival and departure times.
“We now make stops at Fort Meade on Friday night and Fort McHenry Sunday before we fly home,” Bruce said. On Saturday they visit all the war memorials.

“Each trip is slightly different, but we always go to the these memorials, plus we take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery,” he said.

Honor Flight began in 2005

Honor Flight Network was started 11 years ago by Earl Morse, a physician’s assistant, who was working for the VA in Ohio. Morse, also a private pilot, would ask his patients, many being WWII veterans, if they had ever been to Washington DC to see the newly constructed WWII Memorial. Few had, but most of them said

they would one day. On his next visit, he would once again ask if they made it to Washington DC.

“Very few replied with a yes and Earl knew at this point that many WWII Veterans would never make it to Washington DC to enjoy their memorial,” Bruce said.

Honor Flight
Ralph Sylvester, left, Henry Plate and Jared Whichard.

Earl was having breakfast with a few of his pilot buddies at IHOP in Ohio and asked if any would be willing to fly some folks to DC for the day. Shortly thereafter, five small planes left Ohio. It was a busy day for those vets, a day that not only changed their lives, but Earl Morse's life as well. When Earl went back to work the next day, he realized he had just founded the Honor Flight volunteer network.

Today, Morse lives on Vinalhaven. He is still a PA, working in a clinic on the island as well as at Togus, the Augusta VA hospital.

Honor Flight Network is now located in 43 states with more than 140 hubs. Earl Morse's organization has flown over 170,000 WWII Veterans from across the country free of charge to Washington DC.

Source: Mutiny Brook Times Issue 114