Across the nation, veterans are getting the opportunity to fly high once again. Dream Flights, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring seniors and military veterans, lives out its mission by coordinating opportunities for senior veterans to take to the air as honorary passengers in Boeing Stearman biplanes.

Carl BuettnerFor seniors, the flight is an opportunity to reconnect with their past. As family, friends, and care teams look on, they board the two-person plane that was commonly used during aviation training during World War II. For 20 minutes, these men and women get the chance to see the world from a different view once again.

Dream Flights honors all American veterans. In a special 61-day Operation September Freedom in 2021, they specifically honored World War II veterans. The number of living World War II veterans decreases by nearly 300 each day, and Dream Flights wanted to reach as many of these World War II heroes as possible through Operation September Freedom. In those 61 days of Operation September Freedom, Dream Flights honored 891 veterans from 333 cities in 47 different states.

Evelyn BjorklundThese veterans include women like Evelyn Bjorklund, a member of WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). She worked for Naval Intelligence and received the medal for WWII, Navy Unit Accommodations, American Campaign and Victory Medal. She also received the “Rupture Duck.” All servicewomen would get this when they left the service. She was able to see Eleanor Roosevelt when she was in service. She made a few close friends and still keeps in contact with them.

Bjorklund is a resident at Bell Tower Residence, a Carriage Healthcare community, in Merrill, Wisconsin. She took her Dream Flight on August 3, 2021, alongside two other Bell Tower residents: U.S. Army Technician 5th Grade Carl Buettner, and Elroy Lemke an Army Corporal who serviced from 1940 – 1945.

When Bjorklund boarded her Dream Flight, she carried with her a small photo of her late husband, who had passed just weeks prior to the flight.

“All of our Dream Flyers were so thankful and appreciative for the experience,” said Ashley Hilgendorf, Life Enrichment Coordinator at Bell Tower Residence. “It was especially touching for Evelyn. She told me she knew her husband would have loved to have flown. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for each of them, but also for their friends and families to remember for years to come.”

Elroy LemkeAHCA/NCAL is a sponsor of Dream Flights. Through the power of these sponsorships and donations, Dream Flights is able to coordinate hundreds of free flights for veterans each year. Since the organization’s inception in 2011, it has provided more than 4,000 Dream Flights in 45 states. Each flight uses one of the Dream Flights’ fleet of Boeing Stearman biplanes that is piloted by a volunteer trained pilot.

This year, Dream Flights will fly more than 1000 veterans from across the country. While the application period for 2022 is currently closed, Dream Flights encourages AHCA/NCAL members to explore Dream Flights as an option for its residents in the coming years.

For more information about Dream Flights, visit