Right Wisconsin 2016 Patriot Award: Joe Dean

Editor's Note: the Right Wisconsin Awards will be awarded at a gala dinner on Friday September 30, at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.  This year, for the first time, four new awards have been added: The Ronald Reagan Award for lifetime achievement (Governor Tommy G. Thompson) , the Unintimidated Award (TBA), Conservative of the Year (TBA), and the Patriot Award.

Right Wisconsin is proud to announce the winner of the inaugural Patriot Award is Joe Dean, the founder and Past Chairman of the Board: Stars and Stripes Honor Flight

    Five years ago, Joe Dean had a dream — to fly World War II veterans from southeastern Wisconsin to see the memorial built in their honor in Washington, D.C., at no cost to them.
    The Port Washington man and his wife Jane worked tirelessly to make that dream a reality, forming the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, which has taken almost 2,700 veterans to the nation’s capital since November 2008.
    Their group inspired a documentary that’s won national awards, and the movie’s premiere at Miller Park in Milwaukee set a Guinness world record for attendance at a film screening.
    And the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight has helped numerous other Wisconsin honor flight hubs organize.
    “Never underestimate the power of one person to make a difference, and the power of positive thinking,” said Renee Riddle, a member of the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight board of directors.
    “Joe Dean is a force of nature. We are where we are because of his sheer will and willingness to do  anything to make it work. He has a unique ability to make other people believe in something and to think big.”
    Lest anyone question how important Dean is to the Honor Flight, just ask Joe Demler, a Port Washington veteran who took the inaugural trip with the group.
    “It’s one of the greatest things to happen in my life,” he said. “It meant everything to me to go on the Honor Flight. 
    “And he (Dean) means everything to the Honor Flight. He puts his body and soul and everything into it.”
    The idea for the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight came when Joe Dean — whose father David served in the Navy during World War II — saw a news program on the inception of the Honor Flight.
    He said he thought someone should start a chapter in southeastern Wisconsin, and woke the following day committed to the challenge.
    He called “the busiest people he knew,” and they formed the nucleus of the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. By the group’s second meeting, with only $250 in the bank, it booked its first flight.
Years later, Stars and Stripes is recognized as one of the most successful Honor Flight hubs in the nation, and thousands of WWII (and now Korean) vets have been flown to see their monuments in Washington, DC. For being one of the pioneers and inspirations for the Honor Flight, Joe Dean is out Patriot of the Year.
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