By Esther Animalu
Veterans United Home Loans has partnered with Dream Flights to honor veterans nationwide as part of Operation September Freedom, a program that celebrates WWII veterans—and gives them the plane ride of their dreams.
“The partnership between Veterans United and Dream Flights is going to make it mean more. They are enabling us to give World War II veterans a gift that’s priceless. We get to give somebody a gift that changes the rest of their life,” said Darryl Fisher, founder of Dream Flights.
Through this initiative, the partnership aims to enhance the lives of veterans by adding a fully restored Boeing Stearman biplane, the same type of aircraft used to train military aviators during WWII, to their fleet for veterans to partake in a dream flight.
“However long we stay partnered with Dream Flights, for us, it's a continuing motivation and education to honor those and to make sure that the community is helping us honor them,” said Pam Swan, VP of Military Relations and Business Development at Veterans United Home Loans. “It is also a way for us to further our mission by having more Americans see there's always a place and a way we can do things to impact the lives of our Veterans."
Dream Flights has received an outpour of over 1,000 World War II Veterans who have requested flights nationwide as a part of their Operation September Freedom Tour. The organization whose mission is giving back to those who've served is putting action behind “Thank you for your service" by giving veterans the flight of a lifetime.
“When we saw the need and desire for Dream Flights to have a mission of giving 1,000 WWII Veterans the flight of a lifetime, being in a WWII-era airplane, and having that sense of the history of where they came from and where they served–it aligns with what we believe in,” said Swan.
Swan continued, “when we saw that, that met our core values to enhance lives, we realized that it was not just enhancing the lives of those Veterans, but it was bringing their families out to connect them to a part of the history of their loved ones that they've never seen before."
WWII Army Veteran Armando “Chick” Galella took his dream flight at the Westchester County Airport on August 7. Galella is a 100-year-old WWII Veteran that is a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor and he then went on to fight in the Battle of Okinawa. Galella continues to speak at schools, organizations, and other events about his experiences.
“It is important that we continue to show gratitude to our nation's Veterans and service members who have sacrificed for our freedom all year long, in an effort to #MakeitMeanMore,” said Swan.
In 1940 Galella enlisted in the Army. When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Galella served as the 443rd Signal Corps at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, which ultimately launched the US into World War II.
The bombing killed 2,403 service members and civilians. Japanese pilots wounded another 1,178 when they sank two Navy battleships — the USS Arizona and the USS Utah — and destroyed 188 aircraft.
Soon after, Galella advanced to the rank of battalion sergeant major. For his iconic service in the Battle of Okinawa, he received a Bronze Star.
Through the partnership, Galella was able to partake in the flight which he touted as a ‘beautiful and life-changing experience.’
“It was an incredible experience to be able to take flight, it was truly a dream,” said Galella. “It is wonderful how so many veterans like myself are being able to participate in this opportunity through this program, and I hope Veterans United and Dream Flights continue to promote this initiative.”
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