Dream Flights offer vets unique opportunity
BY MIKE WARREN
STEVENS POINT – On a picture-perfect day for flying, a dozen local veterans got the chance to spread their wings, so to speak.
Following dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremonies Aug. 30 at the Stevens Point Municipal Airport, Ageless Aviation Veteran Dream Flights spent the lion’s share of the afternoon taking twelve area vets on a 10-minute flight around Stevens Point.
“In 2011 my dad owned one of these airplanes and he had it restored in Mississippi,” recalled Darryl Fisher, founder and President of Dream Flights, based in Carson City, NV. “He called me and said, ‘Hey, will you go to Mississippi and fly it from Mississippi back to Oregon?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ So I got the idea that at our gas stops we would call local care facilities and see if they’d bring a veteran out to the airport. Our first flight was in Oxford, Mississippi and it was just a tremendous success, so we barnstormed the country for two weeks and did 25 flights on the way back to Oregon.”
The idea took off (pun intended) from there.
“My wife, I’d send her pictures and newspaper articles and television things, and we get back and she goes, ‘Well, why would we stop doing this? Why don’t we keep going?’ So, she formed a non-profit and we’re 6,200 flights later and we have seven airplanes and here we are,” Fisher added.
The airplane used for the Stevens Point – as well as other Wisconsin and Midwest flights – is “The Spirit of Wisconsin,” a bright yellow 1942 Boeing Stearman biplane, which was originally designed specifically to train World War II pilots.
“Very nice to see the tops of trees and everything and the buildings. It sounded like a loud tractor, which I was used to on the farm, but very nice,” said Jackie Doyle, of Stevens Point, following her flight.
Doyle works as a housekeeper at Dimensions Living and has gotten to know many area veterans over the years. She served in the Army Reserves, 410th Signal Co., Junction City, 1981-86.
The Dream Flights program first came to Stevens Point in 2011, and has held flights for local veterans every year except 2012 and 2020. Stevens Point has the longest-running program of any city Dream Flights has been to since its inception.
“As long as there’s senior living communities and veterans, we’ll be in business,” Fisher said.