Helping Heroes Fly was created out of compassion and the desire to serve those who serve our country. The idea came out of the discovery that although the United States military is a brotherhood, it is not funded to be able to provide airfare for troops to be home with their families during times of grief, celebration, or joy.
Terri Keeney learned in late 2015 that a friend’s son would be unable to fly home for the Christmas holidays because he couldn’t afford it on his junior enlisted salary. She had never heard of that before, and, like the general public, thought that members of the military were given everything they could possibly need from the government in exchange for their service.
She approached me in December 2015 and asked if I would help her start a nonprofit that would meet this need of our troops. Her dream was to raise funds to be able to fly troops home for important events such as funerals, weddings, or the birth of a child. Thus began our journey as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We were granted official status by the IRS in February 2016, and we began fund raising. In our first year, we provided, thanks to donors, 65 flights for active-duty enlisted men and women from four of the five branches of the military.
That number increased in 2017 to 129 flights, thanks to the generosity of donors, most of whom are private individuals. Through the first four months of 2018, we had purchased 45 flights this year from all parts of the world, and we’re now serving all five branches of the military.
People have asked us why we do it. The answer is simple. We are all called to serve. Our service comes in the form of volunteering our time – nobody gets paid in this organization — so that we can make sure that we help as many troops as possible be home with their families when they need to be with them the most.
Nobody else is providing this service (that we know of), so why not us? We are two women with big dreams of being able to never have to say “No” to a service member who needs assistance. We recognize that we can’t do it without the generous support of donors, but if the need is there, we will find a way to help.
Pam Matt is co-founder and Co-Director of Helping Heroes Fly. Check out the organization’s web site at HelpingHeroesFly.com.