A message to our incredible volunteers

Ever since I helped start Honor Flight Chicago 10 years ago, I’ve felt I have one of the best jobs in the world. Not only do I get to meet inspiring senior war heroes, but I get to work alongside the most loyal, dedicated and passionate collection of volunteers I’ve ever seen.

That is no exaggeration.

The commitment our volunteers show to help us honor and thank our veterans is inspiring in its own right. If you’ve ever been a part of one of our flight days, you’ve seen that dedication first hand. When veterans arrive at Midway Airport at 4 a.m. for their day of honor, hundreds of our volunteers have already been there for hours. They check our veterans in. They make sure our veterans have everything they need. They escort our veterans around the airport — and later around Washington, D.C. Really, what our volunteers do is make sure our veterans are treated like heroes.

What you may not see, though, is all that our volunteers do outside of flight day. When it comes to the inner workings of our organization, our volunteers are our heroes. Last year, we had 1,432 volunteers give their time by driving a veteran to a speaking event, or coming into the Honor Flight Chicago office to stuff envelopes, or conducting a phone interview with a veteran that appears on our website. We’ve flown 76 flights to D.C., and it takes more than 1,500 volunteer hours to organize each flight

As organizations across the country celebrate National Volunteer Week, I could write thousands of words about how our organization would not exist without our volunteers — it really wouldn’t, I have no doubt about that — but in the spirit of our organization, I really want to stress two words to each and every one of you who has ever volunteered with Honor Flight Chicago.

Thank you.

National Volunteer Week is about honoring the impact of change makers in our communities, and inspiring others to serve. With that in mind, I want to stress that we always can use more volunteers. No matter your skill set, I’m confident we can find something for you that helps support our mission and validates your desire to help.

Currently we are looking for volunteers who:

  • Can help us formalize our school outreach program that allows us to partner with Chicago area schools and introduce students to World War II and Korean War veterans
  • Have strong writing backgrounds (ideally a copywriter or editor) and can help us share our veterans’ incredible stories
  • Are experienced with WordPress and can provide assistance with our new website (coming later this year!)
  • Are digitally savvy and can assist with data entry in our Lincoln Park office

If you are interested in filling one of those roles, please email info@www.honorflightchicago.org and mail a volunteer form to the Honor Flight Chicago office (9701 W Higgins Road, Suite 310 Rosemont, IL 60018).

I said in the beginning that I feel I have one of the best jobs in the world. One of my favorite elements of the job are hearing from veterans after their Honor Flight. Some stories I hear make me laugh, others make me cry. Whenever I think about our volunteers, though, I think about a comment one veteran made to me last year.

His name was Len DeMichele, an 89-year-old WWII veteran, and this is what he said:

“The world is divided between ‘givers’ and ‘takers.’ My experience has told me that the ‘takers’ are the majority. That is, until I went on your Honor Flight. For me, your event was almost a religious experience. My emotions ran high and brought tears to my eyes.

“Your people were all ‘givers’ — thinking of others — wanting nothing from others, but having the satisfaction of giving and helping others. It was a wonderful experience for me, and it was a day I will never forget.”

To our volunteers, you have helped make Honor Flight Chicago what it is today, and in the process, you have helped change thousands of people’s lives. From the bottom of my heart and from everyone associated with Honor Flight Chicago, thank you.