Honor Flight Recognizes Veterans for Their Service and Sacrifice
When one Bell employee learned of a local veterans’ honor flight, he immediately thought of a 40-year family friendship and one Korean vet who deserved the experience of a lifetime.
Andy Miller, mortgage banker
Stars and Stripes Honor Flight
Menomonee Falls, Wis.
A 40-year friendship sparked a Pay It Forward donation that would give one Korean War veteran the flight of a lifetime.
"I have known Wayne and his family in one way or another for almost 40 years,” explained mortgage banker Andy Miller. “I graduated with his twin sons from high school and his daughter-in-law is my wife's best friend.”
When Andy heard of the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight out of Menomonee Falls, Wis., he immediately thought of his friend and veteran, Wayne Roloff.
"Like many veterans who never spoke of their experience in the military during a war time, Honor Flight gives them a sense of healing from what they experienced and had bottled up inside them for so many years," Andy says. “His son told me he didn’t want to go on the Honor Flight because he felt unworthy of the recognition."
That’s when Andy decided to donate to the organization that honors veterans with a life-changing trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials and experience a day of honor and thanks. In turn, a portion of Andy’s Pay It Forward donation helped Wayne attend the November 2019 trip.
As part of the flight, Andy and his wife attended the parade on Saturday, November 9, welcoming the veterans home from Washington, D.C. "I have not known Wayne to smile much in the time I have known him, but he was all smiles on the parade route after the trip," Andy recalls.
Witnessing the parade route is nearly as life-changing for the people watching as it is the veterans.
"The cheers, the tears and the emotion cannot be described. It is so humbling to be thanked by a veteran who is in fact being thanked (possibly for the first time since they came home from the war) by the crowd of onlookers and supporters," Andy explains.
Karyn Roelke, vice president of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, was incredibly grateful for the gift from Andy as she truly understands the impact it can make.
"So many of our oldest veterans have never been thanked for their service, and many carry heavy burdens and have invisible scars from their wartime experience,” Karyn says. “Donations like yours enable us to honor and thank these aging heroes before it is too late, so that they know their service and sacrifices are truly appreciated by their community, and that they are not forgotten."
Through the Pay It Forward program, Bell gives employees money each year to donate to people and causes they care about.