Program Sends Montana Vets to WWII Memorial for Free - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Program Sends Montana Vets to WWII Memorial for Free

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Philip Donahue was about 19-years-old when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

"They bombed my country and I didn't like it. Like so many other young guys," says Donahue.

Donahue volunteered with his three brothers to join the military after the attacks. A decision he didn't think twice about.

" I remember the announcement on a Sunday morning that they bombed Pearl Harbor and my father began to cry. The first time I've ever seen my dad cry."

Many of those that served in World War II didn't receive a proper homecoming or even a thank you. That's why Big Sky Honor Flight, a nonprofit organization, sends Montana's vets to Washington D.C. at no cost.

"It's funded completely by private funds," says Big Sky Honor Flight volunteer Tiffany Samel.

The program was jump started by Earl Morse, a physician assistant and veteran. He flew his patients who served our country to see the World War II memorial. The Montana chapter began in October of 2011 and since then has flown 270 Montana vets.

"They are just so thankful. They are jubilant. The energy level these 90 plus aged veterans have on this flight is absolutely spectacular to see," says Samel.

Each trip costs more than $100,000. The organization feels a sense of urgency to raise funds when nationally, 1,000 vets die daily. For many, this trip serves as closure.

"We see veterans who never spoke about the war open up tearful. I've been told multiple times they finally feel safe to talk about their experience and to talk about it. To share those stories with us. With their families they bring along with. There's a huge sense of closure," says Samel.

"If you have an opportunity to go, you should go. It's part of what you've earn with your blood and sweat and aches and pains and whatever else you got," says Donahue.

The next honor flight takes off May 19th from Billings.

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