A Turkey Day 'honor'
WORTHINGTON -- King Turkey Day 2010 will honor local World War II veterans with its selection of parade marshals and speaker. The KTD Board of Directors has announced that Earl Morse, the originator of the Honor Flight concept, will be the featur...
WORTHINGTON -- King Turkey Day 2010 will honor local World War II veterans with its selection of parade marshals and speaker.
The KTD Board of Directors has announced that Earl Morse, the originator of the Honor Flight concept, will be the featured speaker for this year's celebration. He will deliver his address at 1 p.m. Sept. 18 from the platform at 10th Street and Fourth Avenue.
Morse, a physician assistant and retired Air Force captain, conceived of Honor Flight as a way to honor the veterans he had taken care of for 27 years.
After retiring from the Air Force in 1998, Earl was hired by the Department of Veterans Affairs to work at a clinic in Springfield, Ohio. When the World War II Memorial was completed and dedicated in 2004 in Washington, D.C., it quickly became a topic of conversation among his WWII-era patients.
In talking with his patients, it became clear to Morse that it wasn't physically or financially feasible for many of the veterans to make the journey to see their memorial.
Also a private pilot and member of one of the nation's largest aero clubs located at Wright-Patterson Air Base in Dayton, Ohio, Morse recruited other pilots to help in the first Honor Flight venture. In May 2005, six small planes flew 12 veterans to Manassas, Va., outside of Washington. Vans then transported the pilots and veterans to the World War II memorial.
Soon, other flights were planned, and the idea spread quickly. In 2007, the Honor Flight Network -- a national program committed to flying veterans to visit their memorials -- was formed. Honor Flight has now transported more than 53,000 veterans from 48 states -- at no cost to the veterans -- to Washington.
Because of his Honor Flight work, Morse has received many awards and recognitions, including the Wright-Patterson AFB Volunteer Veteran of the Year Award; induction into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame; and the nation's second-highest honor to civilians, The Presidential Citizen's Medal, presented Dec. 10, 2008, in the Oval Office by President George W. Bush. He and his wife, Clarice continue to live in Ohio and have two sons, David and Patrick, and two grandsons.
Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight joined the Honor Flight network this year, and the first flight of 110 veterans from the local region occurred in May. A second flight is planned for early October.
Because Honor Flight has been so enthusiastically supported by local residents, the King Turkey Day Board of Directors decided it was a good year to recognize World War II veterans during the parade, explained KTD President Vida Iten.
"We decided to make the veterans the parade marshals first," Iten said, "then, when we started working on the speaker, we thought it would be fitting to get someone connected with Honor Flight."
Morse, who is again working as a physician assistant at a VA hospital, was a hard man to pin down, but with some persistence, he agreed to come and share his message at King Turkey Day.
"I just can't believe that we got the founder of Honor Flight," said Iten. "It's such an honor to have Earl Morse come to our celebration."
Nobles County World War II veterans will first be transported to hear Morse speak and then will ride in the parade. Any local World War II veterans who would like to participate should contact the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, 372-2919. A reception for the veterans following the parade is also being planned.
And, to further show its support for Honor Flight, the KTD Board will donate one hour's worth of proceeds from the celebration's beer garden to the upcoming Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight.
"There will a social hour for the veterans from 4 to 5 p.m., and we'd love to have the World War II veterans come down to socialize," Iten said. "We really hope the public will come out and show their support to the veterans throughout the festival."
Iten also noted that, although the 2010 KTD theme, "Our Paycheck remains strong," doesn't directly address the Honor Flight concept, it's still fitting.
"The theme speaks to the recent economy," she said, "but without our World War II veterans, we wouldn't live in a free country, wouldn't have a free economy. We wouldn't be here."