The Liberty Gazette
August 21, 2012Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: The news of the shooting screamed from the TV in the Norfolk, Nebraska airport building where we entered to pay for fuel, on our way up to Mitchell, South Dakota. All eyes were glued to the Fox News channel, watching the chaos, the sadness, the anger, the tragedy of it all; reports of the Colorado movie theater shooting. Like everyone else, I shook my head, my heart sank as I thought of all those affected by this horrible act. Like most, although truly saddened, we went on with our day. But we were recently reminded of the man and his vision, about which we wrote almost four years ago, Col. Jack D. Howell, USMC (Ret.) and his organization, Teens in Flight. The Florida-based charity provides flight training and aviation maintenance scholarships to teens whose parents have been killed, wounded or disabled in military action, as well as “at risk” teens. Col. Howell and his group heard about the shooting too, and they, too, live far from the tragedy and don’t personally know anyone involved. Yet once again, Col. Howell jumped in to do something.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, August 22, 16-year old Cora Rand, a scholarship recipient and student at Teens in Flight and her flight training mentor, 22-year old Cherileigh Dawson will begin a “Fly-a-thon” from their home base in Palm Coast, Florida to Aurora, Colorado. It’s like a walk-a-thon in the air. 1,310 miles. The women will fly Cherileigh’s Cessna Cardinal, and will be accompanied by Col. Howell.
Mike: A Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO) in the Marines, Col. Howell also taught in inner-city high schools throughout the country, both careers offering tremendous opportunity for close observation of families grieving and dealing with sudden, unexpected life-altering tragedy. Sudden tragedy can trigger Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), often symptomized in teens by withdrawal, mistrust, and negative behavior. “The CAO becomes immersed into the family crisis from the initial notification of death or severe injury to a love one, until all official paperwork is done,” he says, “then returns to normal duties, and the family is left to their grief and to fend for themselves.” He hated that.
Col. Howell founded Teens in Flight on the belief that by providing an opportunity for free flight lessons, with mentoring and a new direction focusing on a positive and fun experience, will help with healing and redirect negative behavior. With locations in Jacksonville and Palm Coast, Florida, Colorado Springs, and Killeen, Texas, Teens in Flight graduates have gone on to West Point, the Naval Academy, and Embry-Riddle.
The idea for the Fly-a-Thon came to him while watching the same news the rest of us watched, but knowing that insurance won’t cover all the needs, Col. Howell says, “We need to do what is right. That horrible act could have just as easily happened here.”
Cora, Cherileigh, and the Colonel are seeking per-mile pledges, which will be given to the Colorado Organization for Victims Assistance.
Col. Howell generously donates his time, effort, and resources because of his conviction that many life lessons can be learned through aviation. And so it’s not just a chance to fly to do something good, raise money and awareness. This “Fly-a-Thon” is the reality of Good that was received by one, and is being added-to and passed along to others. It’s not just about flying, it’s about what you do with a gift God gave you. Please join us in donating, www.teens-in-flight.com or (386) 569-5685. Spread the word.