Nine members of the Lee Coast (Fla.) Chapter of MOAA were among 24 veterans from Shell Point Retirement Community who had the experience of flying in a Boeing Stearman biplane as part of a two-day event with Dream Flights, a nonprofit organization devoted to honoring military veterans and seniors with the adventure of a lifetime.
Darryl Fisher, founder of Dream Flights, also invited Lee Coast Chapter Vice President Capt. Doug Eubanks, USN (Ret), and Past President Lt. Col. Fred Bondurant, USAF (Ret), to participate in this year’s event, held April 25-26 at Page Field in Fort Myers, Fla.
“I’ve wanted to fly in a biplane for 50 years,” said Bondurant. “The opportunity with Dream Flights finally presented itself. What a thrill!”
Since its founding, more than 5,000 veterans across the country have flown at no cost to them on Dream Flights. Flight requests are available to senior care communities as well as individuals. The pilots of Dream Flights are active and retired military and commercial pilots who volunteer their time and participate in mandatory flight training each year at Dream Flights University in Castroville, Texas.
In 2021, during its Operation September Freedom, Dream Flights landed in 333 cities in 47 states to honor 891 World War II veterans with flights. Among those locations was Page Field, where Rear Adm. Roger Triftshauser, USN (Ret), a past president of the Lee Coast Chapter, and Col. Jim Stapleton, USA (Ret), a chapter member and veterans’ coordinator at Shell Point, helped coordinate flights for 18 World War II veterans.
“It’s an experience for both the veterans and the volunteers there,” said Triftshauser. “When you see these veterans come down and see their reaction … it’s what it should be. That’s what this is all about.”
After the success of event in 2021, Triftshauser and Stapleton thought it was something their MOAA chapter should participate in, and chapter leaders agreed.
“With the Lee Coast Chapter leading the way, we think MOAA’s 400 chapters could provide a national network of veterans who want to participate,” said Stapleton.
“Our hope is that Dream Flights might be perpetuated nationally as a way to honor veterans and provide them with a memorable experience,” added Triftshauser. “It would truly be an inspirational way to never stop serving our members.”