From Humble Beginnings…

Stars and Stripes Honor Flight was started by Joe Dean and a merry band of volunteers, after Dean had seen a brief national news segment (See National Honor Flight Story below). Joe recalls thinking, “someone should do this in Wisconsin.” The next day Dean, son of a WWII Hero (David Dean, US Navy), woke up with one overwhelming thought: “Oh man, I should do this in Wisconsin!”

Within days, the SSHF wheels were in motion. Recruiting the busiest people he knew (they have no time for the petty stuff) Dean asked each potential board member three questions: Why not here? Why not us? Why not now?! The SSHF Board of Directors became reality and the board booked it's first flight at their second meeting - with a grand total of $250.00 in the bank! The SSHF story was told one person, one small group at a time and grew from tiny fund-raisers to the partnership with WTMJ and Charlie Sykes. To date, SSHF has flown over 1000 veterans via the successful launch of "Operation Resolve" wherein 747's were chartered allowing SSHF to fly up to 300 veterans at a time. Our community has been PHENOMENAL in its support. We are forever grateful.

The National Honor Flight Network

The Honor Flight Network program was conceived by Earl Morse, a physician assistant and retired Air Force Captain. Earl was working at a VA clinic in Ohio when then the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C was finally completed and dedicated in May of 2004. Earl repeatedly asked his veteran patients if they would ever travel out to visit THEIR memorial. But for most of these senior heroes in their 80's, it simply wasn't financially or physically possible for them to make the journey on their own.

That's when Earl decided to do something to help. In addition to being a physician assistant, Earl was also a private pilot and a member of one of our nation's largest and best aero clubs located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. In December of 2004, Earl asked one of his World War II veteran patients if it would be all right if Earl personally flew him out to D.C., free of charge, to visit his memorial. Mr. Loy broke down and cried. He told Earl that at his age he would probably never get to see his memorial otherwise, and graciously accepted the offer.

Earl posed the same question to a second World War II veteran a week later. He too cried and enthusiastically accepted the trip. It didn't take long for Earl to realize that there were many veterans who would have the same reaction. So he started asking for help from other pilots to make these dreams a reality. There were two major stipulations to his request. The first was that the veterans pay nothing. The entire aircraft rental ($600 to $1200 for the day) would have to be paid solely by the pilots. The second was that the pilots personally escort the veterans around D.C. for the entire day. Eleven pilots who had never met his patients stepped up to volunteer. And Honor Flight was born.

In May of 2005, six small planes flew 12 very happy veterans out to the World War II Memorial. The responses from both the veterans and the pilots were overwhelming. By the end of the first year, Honor Flight had transported 137 World War II veterans to their memorial.

Honor Flight Hubs in Wisconsin
Executive Committe

Executive Committee

Paula Nelson, President

Manager of Human Resources at TJ Hale.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to honor and thank our WWII veterans in a way that is meaningful and memorable to them - I do this In memory of my father, a WWII veteran, and to thank my brothers who served in Viet Nam.”

Brad Hoeft, Past-President

Attorney/Shareholder  HUIRAS, FARRELL & ANTOINE, S.C. , Port Washington, WI

“It is a great privilege to have served as President of such an incredibly talented and dedicated Organization that is fully committed to honoring our WWII Veterans.  My personal involvement is a tribute to and in memory of my grandfather, Louis G. Quader, who served as a flight instructor  in the Army Air Forces.”

Amy Luft, 1st Vice President

HCPro Sales Rep./President of Grafton American Legion Auxiliary

“I have a passion for honoring our veterans. My work is in tribute to my late father Robert Akright, who was a WWII veteran and charter member of the building of the WWII Memorial in Washington DC.”

Mark Grams, 2nd Vice President

Dodge County Veterans Service Officer

“I became a Marine in 1974 and it is now part of my DNA. I cannot rest until I see every World War II veteran from southeastern Wisconsin take their richly deserved Honor Flight.”

David Krause, Treasurer

Certified Public Accountant, Krause & Associates, SC

“It is an honor to say thank you to our veterans who gave so much and asked for so little.”

Barb Burja, Secretary

Undergraduate Records Coordinator, College of Health Sciences, Marquette University

“My personal involvement is a tribute to a neighbor, Bob Kressin, who flew on the second flight with SSHF - he proudly wore his jacket 24/7 afterward! I could only imagine that my late father, Lawrence Burja, a Korean War Veteran, would be right here volunteering with me!”


Board of Directors

Karyn Roelke

Freelance Writer

“Getting to know our WWII veterans and Korean War veterans has been an honor and a privilege.  I am so thankful to have the opportunity to thank these heroes in some small way.”

Molly Hogan

Assistant Vice President - BMO Harris Bank

“It is a great honor to serve our veterans.  These heroes provide us with the freedoms we have everyday.  I volunteer in remembrance of both of my grandfathers and to thank all veterans for their service to our nation.”

Carla McGinn

Chief Financial Officer -TJ Hale Company

“It is an honor for me to serve on the board and do a small part in giving back to the men and women who risked everything for the freedom we enjoy today.”

Dr. Ted O’Reilly

Family Medicine, Aurora-Advanced Health Care, Chief Medical Officer, Aurora Medical Center Grafton

“To me, it’s all about the vets.  These brave and proud Americans stepped up and secured the freedoms and liberties we enjoy today.  It’s truly a pleasure and honor to serve and thank these heroes.”

Peter Pochowski

Executive Director, Wisconsin School Safety Coordinators Association

“I was a part of a great team of veterans working for our citizens, and now I am a member of a great team of citizens working for our veterans.”

Dr. Michael Lischak

Columbia St. Mary's, Occupational, Aerospace and Travel Medicine

“I serve as a board member of SSHF because of the sacrifice, gratitude and devotion to American ideals that the veterans and their family members epitomize and that the volunteers, contributors and the public so warmly celebrate.”

Dan Toomey

We Energies, Project Supervisor

“For some reason America didn't raise a memorial to WWII Veterans until most of them were gone. Helping get those who remain out to see it is indeed an honor and a privilege.”

Jim Kliese

Retired Engineering Manager, Quad Tech

“These heroes we honor saved the world and enabled it to be what it is today. This program is the least we can do to honor their sacrifices and devotion to country”

Amy Klapper

FIS, VP and Product Manager

“I volunteer with the Honor Flight program in memory of my father, a WWII Army Sergeant. It is a privilege to be able to personally thank the greatest generation; the WII Veterans, for their service and what they did for the future of our country.”

Eileen C. Wilson

Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center

“I have the dedication, drive and compassion to help others, in particular Soldiers and Veterans. It is an absolute honor to be able work with the Honor Flight to make this a reality for so many deserving people”

Founder of SSHF: Joe Dean