On the first day of school this year Jamestown resident Sue Norrod shared a PowerPoint presentation with her fifth- and sixth-grade students at East Dayton Christian School in Riverside about a book she co-wrote with Air Force Col. Cassie B. Barlow (Ret.) — but her program had a very unexpected ending.
“Saluting Our Grandmas: Women of WWII,” published in May, follows Norrod’s mother and other women who served, ending with an Honor Flight visit she took with her mother. She had contacted Earl Morse, founder of Honor Flight, to contribute a chapter, promising that all of her book proceeds would go to Honor Flight Dayton, and he wrote chapter 11.
“After the presentation, a hand came up,” said Norrod, “and the student said ‘My grandfather started Honor Flight.’
“I glanced at his name tag, saw that his name was Ezekiel Morse, and was so excited. I invited him to come to the front of the room and opened the book to the page with his grandfather’s picture — he grinned from ear to ear.”
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Ezekiel, an 11-year-old fifth-grader who prefers to be called EZ, was confused. “When she showed the part about Honor Flight, I thought, ‘Could this really be happening?’ ”
His mother, Hannah, picked him up from school, and he told her about his strange first day of school. “He was so excited that they’d talked about his pappy,” Mrs. Morse recalled. “Earl was coming to town in October, and I realized the timing was good.”
She called her father-in-law, told him about EZ’s experience and asked if he’d have time during his visit to speak to the class.
“I was thrilled,” said Earl, who now lives in Maine but returns to visit his two sons’ families in the Dayton area. “I get calls or emails each year from people who want to write a book about Honor Flight, but they seldom come to fruition. Mrs. Norrod reached out to raise funds for Honor Flight, so I wrote a chapter for her, and was glad hers got published. I was so surprised when my son David’s wife (Hannah) called and told me what had happened. It was too cool, so I told her to set up the presentation.”
Morse, who had no idea that Norrod taught at his grandson’s school during their communications, visited on Oct. 7, and his audience included all fifth- and sixth-graders as well as high school classes. “For a lot of the kids, WWII is as distant as George Washington or Abe Lincoln — but a number of WWII veterans are still in our communities. The presentation gave them some perspective.”
A retired Air Force captain, Morse was a physician assistant at the Springfield VA Outpatient Clinic when a major WWII monument was completed in Washington, D.C., in 2004.
“Although I encouraged veterans to go and see it, I soon realized that most couldn’t afford it, or had no one to take them,” Morse said.
A licensed pilot, he and a friend flew the first trip to D.C. in prop planes with veterans. Later, he talked with a group of pilots in the Aero Club at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base; 11 volunteered, and the first official Honor Flight took veterans to see their memorial in 2005.
“I showed the kids videos from the first flights, and then with the big planes that take them now,” said Morse. “There are 140 hubs (cities) in 38 states with Honor Flight leadership and guardians, and we now include veterans from all wars. Those memorials are America’s ‘thank you’ to them; even though there’s no memorial yet for the Gulf Wars, we take those veterans, too. What veteran doesn’t deserve to go?”
“I felt proud that he came to my school,” said EZ. “I was afraid everyone would stare at me, but they didn’t. They told me they liked it and wanted to learn even more.”
For Norrod, it was a stroke of serendipity. “I believe the Lord winks at you now and then,” she said.
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Contact this contributing writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.