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“Service Above Self”… that’s the motto of every Rotarian in the world. But every time I reflect on these words, the same people come to my mind… our veterans; the men and women who have committed their lives to protecting our freedom by putting themselves in harm’s way. THAT is service above self. “Service Above Self”… that’s the motto of every Rotarian in the world. But every time I reflect on these words, the same people come to my mind… our veterans; the men and women who have committed their lives to protecting our freedom by putting themselves in harm’s way. THAT is service above self. 

I know that my fellow Rotarians also recognize the sacrifices of those who have served; many of them are veterans as well. It’s part of what makes me proud to be a Rotarian.  Because of that, the Hendersonville and Asheville Rotary clubs are official partners of what has come to be known as Blue Ridge Honor Flight here in Western North Carolina. It’s mission: To transport America’s Veterans to Washington, DC to visit those memorials dedicated to honor the service and sacrifices of themselves and their friends.

July 10, 2017

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There are defining moments in life that are rare but so meaningful that they’re seriously enhanced by being shared with others. For this reason, I am interrupting my river series to tell you about an amazing odyssey I was honored to be part of recently. I was a guest participant in a very special program this May run by a local nonprofit, Blue Ridge Honor Flight. Formerly known as HonorAir, it was founded by Jeff Miller of Hendersonville, an outstanding leader in the community. The program originally served World War II veterans and has now been extended to Korean War veterans like me and some Vietnam vets as well.

The local group is an arm of the national Honor Flight Network. Rotary Club volunteers hold fundraisers and recruit escorts for these deeply moving trips.

I was one of 91 veterans invited to take part in a free trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam Veterans memorials. The trip also included a special stop to witness the deeply moving changing of the guard at the magnificent Arlington National Cemetery.

Upon arriving at the Asheville Regional Airport early that Saturday morning, I was greeted by my very own “guardian,” Dan Akers, one of the 91 volunteer escorts who not only gave up their Saturday but paid their own way to attend to our every need and ensure that our group’s experience would be safe and comfortable.

June 27, 2017

Andrews, NC.  Saturday, June 17th is a day that Richard Parker will not soon forget, for it marked the day that the terminal at Western Carolina Regional Airport was named the “Richard Parker Terminal” in his honor.  The ceremony, held at the Cherokee County airport, was attended by over 200 dignitaries and residents of this mountain community.  

Parker, 90, has been the driving force behind the evolution of the airfield from a grass strip into a modern general aviation hub for the western part of the state.  Mayor Bill Hughes of Murphy called Parker, “the father of aviation” in the region and claimed that “when you think of the airport you always think of Richard Parker.” 

Mr. Parker learned to fly at the airport in 1946 when it was just a grass strip, later starting an informal air taxi service for locals until he was eventually hired as the corporate pilot for Phillips and Jordan, a civil construction firm, in 1959.  Parker later led the airport advisory committee that planned and implemented several airport upgrades after Cherokee County purchased the airport in 1968.  He retired from flying in 2008 after serving as the airport manager and accumulating over 25,000 flying hours. 

June 19, 2017

By Bill Moss

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We are so glad General Frank Blazey was able to go with us on the flight last month!

Frank Earl Blazey, a decorated Army infantry officer who led troops in the Korean and Vietnam wars before retiring as a brigadier general, died on Monday at the Life Care Center at Lake Pointe Landing. He was 92.

A 1946 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., Blazey received numerous medals for courageously leading soldiers, often under heavy fire.On April 25 and 26, 1951, near Tokchong, Korea, his Company E was attacked by a much larger enemy force as Blazey’s company occupied a defensive position on the Elgin Line. Forced to tighten his perimeter in the face of heavy pressure, Capt. Blazey “fearlessly moved through the intense enemy fire as he organized a defensive position around the command post,” according to a synopsis of the Silver Star commendation. “When the supply of ammunition became critically low, Captain Blazey, on three occasions, personally led a party through the heavy hostile fire to procure more.”The old soldier did not die, nor even fade away, in retirement in Hendersonville.He served on the Board of Directors of the Department of Social Services, was an active member of the Rotary Club, was among the founders of ECO, the Environmental Conservation Organization, and supported the YMCA and Blue Ridge Community College, where he helped found the Lifelong Learning program.

May 30, 2017

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It’s 6 a.m. on Saturday, May 13. The doors slide open at Asheville Regional Airport to reveal two lines of military men and women dressed in formal uniforms who were busy greeting older men and women wearing navy and gold polo shirts.

Voices ring out in greeting; there are handshakes and hugs. The excitement is palpable as 90 veterans prepare to take a trip to Washington, D.C., on the Blue Ridge Honor Flight.
The Blue Ridge Honor Flight transports area veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices.

The trip is completely free for veterans, who are accompanied by a guardian — either a family member, friend or volunteer, who see to the veteran’s every need throughout the duration of the trip. The nonprofit provides everything – transportation, meals and snacks and medical personnel.