March 19 has always been a special date for me.

It was on March 19, 2008, that Honor Flight Chicago officially launched. Our goal then was simple: Fly World War II heroes to Washington, D.C., to see the memorial built in their honor. Ten years later, we’ve expanded to also flying our Korean War veterans, and we have a better appreciation and understanding for the impact our organization has on our senior war heroes, their loved ones and friends.

Our mission is clear. We honor. We thank. We inspire. And in the process, we change lives.

All of us within the organization are excited to kick off our second decade of honoring these heroes. Our first flight of the year — and 83rd overall — is scheduled for April 11, just 23 days from now (but who is counting!). On that flight, we will fly our 7,500th veteran to Washington, D.C.

That’s right — 7,500 men and women who received the thanks and recognition few sought out, but all deserved.

It’s been our privilege to fly each and every one of those veterans at no cost to them. That’s only been possible thanks to the incredible support of our generous volunteers and donors, who offer their time and their money to help say “thank you” to a population that’s waited decades to hear those two words.

As we start this flight season, we’re excited to debut our new Public Service Announcement. In it, World War II veteran Irv Abramson introduces Honor Flight Chicago and asks viewers to help support the organization and give a veteran like him a chance to have a life-changing experience.

Allow me to briefly tell you about Irv. Irv enlisted in the U.S. Army when he was 17 years old. As an expert marksman with the 100th Combat Infantry Division, he fought through France, Germany and Belgium, where he was seriously wounded in the “Battle of the Bulge.” He is the recipient of the Purple Heart, and he was awarded a Bronze Star.

Last year, I spoke with Irv about his experience with Honor Flight Chicago, and this was his reply:

“My day of honor gave me a new perspective on society — the gratitude I witnessed from strangers who stopped me in Chicago and Washington, D.C., to thank me for my military service was inspiring. That is why I decided to write Honor Flight Chicago into my will. I want to help another veteran be impacted the way I was by a remarkable organization.”

I can think of no better person to be the voice of our new PSA. Be on the lookout for it on TV stations across the Chicago area.

As excited as we are about flying our 7,500th veteran in a few weeks, we know there are thousands more still waiting for their much-deserved recognition. We want to give all of our senior war heroes the type of recognition they deserve. That’s where we need your help.

If you know of a senior war veteran in the Chicago area who has not yet experienced their Day of Honor, please ask them to get in touch with us. We’re still flying World War II and Korean War veterans, and we’re currently accepting applications for Vietnam War veterans.

As I mentioned, our heroes experience their Day of Honor at no cost to them. If you would like to donate to our organization, please feel free to do so on our website or by calling our office at 773.227.VETS (8387).

From all of us at Honor Flight Chicago, thank you for support. It’s been 10 incredible years for me and the organization. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 have in store.