Bell Tower Residence partners with nonprofit to honor veterans
5 residents to soar 1,000 feet in WWII-era biplane; public invited to attend
The non-profit, Dream Flights, is landing in Merrill to honor seniors and veterans from Bell Tower Residence with free flights of a lifetime in restored World War II-era biplanes. The first flight begins at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 17, 2022, at Merrill Airport, 1701 Champagne St. The public is invited to attend.
In the event of inclement weather, the flights will be rescheduled.
During the 20-minute flight, Dream Flyers will experience the freedom and exhilaration of soaring 1,000 feet in the air in an iconic, open-cockpit-biplane. “The magic of a Dream Flight is an exhilarating experience, one that stays with them until their last days,” said Dream Flights founder, Darryl Fisher. “They take off in the Stearman at 95 or 100 years old, and they land feeling 25-30 years younger.”
Bell Tower residents who will take flight on July 17 include:
• John Swan, 83-year-old Staff Sergeant of the Army National Guard. Served six years in Peace Time.
• Rex Buehler, 83-year-old PFC of the United States Army. Served two years in Peace Time.
• Larry Plautz, 85-year-old Airman of the United States Air Force. Served four years in Peace Time.
• Tom Sazama, 90-year-old Petty Officer 2nd Class of the United States Navy. Served four years during the Korean War and was stationed in Japan as a Communications Technician handling top secret information.
• Gerry Leistikow, 87-year-old Staff Sergeant of the National Guard. Served 12 years during the Berlin Crisis.
Following the flight, the Dream Flyers will receive a signed Dream Flights baseball hat, and friends and family will gather around the Stearman for a group photo. In the mail a few weeks later, Dream Flyers will receive a certificate customized with a photo of them sitting in the cockpit of the plane.
Dream Flights has honored more than 5,000 veterans and seniors living in long-term care communities since 2011. In 2021, Dream Flights launched Operation September Freedom, the largest barnstorming event in U.S. history and its first to honor veterans who served in a particular war. During the 61-day tour, Dream Flights landed in 333 cities/49 states to honor 891 World War II heroes with free Dream Flights.
Dream Flights pilots, who primarily fly for major airlines and are active duty or retired military veterans themselves, volunteer their time to fly these veterans in the country’s largest fleet of restored/fully operational Stearman bi-planes.
Dream Flights are always free to participants. The organization relies on corporate sponsors, donors, and individual donations to support its mission of giving back to those who gave. Tax-deductible donations and sponsorship opportunities are available at https://dreamflights.org/donate.
Dream Flights is a nonprofit dedicated to honoring the service, sacrifice, and stories of America’s senior veterans by providing them with a life-changing experience: an open-air flight in the cockpit of a fully restored WWII-era Stearman.