Soaring Valor: Gary Sinise Foundation and The National WWII Museum Partner to Honor the Greatest Generation
On June 24, an honor flight of 50 WWII veterans arrived in New Orleans to a hero’s welcome, kicking off three red carpet days in New Orleans. Along with the trip’s sponsor, Gary Sinise, the veterans were greeted with jazz music, Mardi Gras beads, and throngs of cheering supporters including members of the Armed Forces and youth baseball teams. It was a headline moment in the Soaring Valor initiative, launched earlier this year by the Gary Sinise Foundation and the Museum with American Airlines, and designed to bring veterans—and their stories—to The National WWII Museum.
All 50 veterans now have their wartime stories recorded as part of the Museum’s oral-history collection, which the initiative also supports through sponsorship of an oral-historian post at the Museum as well as funds to send historians to those veterans who cannot travel. This support helps the Museum accelerate its work to collect as many oral histories as possible—a mission that increases in urgency with each passing year. According to Museum president and CEO Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, “Every time we lose a veteran, it’s like losing a library. All of those memories and firsthand experiences are gone.”
For Sinise, that mission touches a personal chord: “My uncle Jack was a navigator on a B-17 Flying Fortress, flying 30 missions over Europe. He was a true inspiration in my life. When he passed away last year at the age of 90, it was comforting to know that his story was part of the Museum’s oral-history collection, and that he had the opportunity to visit such a remarkable institution. I think other families deserve that, and through our educational program at the Gary Sinise Foundation, I’m thrilled to help make it happen for some of them.”
This June, Soaring Valor brought that experience to 50 veterans, whose presence honored our campus, and whose visit left a deep impression on all involved. As he departed with tears in his eyes, Cruz Sartuche, a 99-year-old Navy veteran, said, “Never in my life have I experienced such a welcome. This is the welcome I wish I got when I came home. I could pass tomorrow in comfort knowing this Museum is here for all to see.”