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Clifton Shipman award winner named

Jeff Miller, a smalltown drycleaner who founded the veteran-honoring effort that has flown 170,000 World War II veterans to Washington to see the National World War II Memorial, was honored Wednesday as the 2015 recipient of the Clifton Shipman Award.

Representing the Hendersonville Business and Merchants Association, Don Holder presented the award after Miller had spoken about HonorAir, the organization he founded in 2006. Miller described he made common cause with early supporters around his age who also had fathers who were WWII veterans. One was Chuck Allen, a US Airways executive who agreed to the first charter flights from Asheville Regional Airport to Washington. The first flight was on Sept. 23, 2005. Last April, an Honor Flight Network group invited Miller to Washington to greet the 400th flight. "Now we're up to about 450," he said.

Miller and Earl Morse, a former U.S. Air Force pilot who first flew three or four World War II veterans at a time to Washington in a small plane, formed the Honor Flight Network. The network has chapters in 43 states and 133 cities. Miller estimated HonorAir and the Honor Flight Network have spent $23 million just on charter flights. That doesn't count chartered buses, food and other costs. Honor Flight Networks also have flown Korean and Vietnam veterans and will always fly terminally ill veterans from any era, he said.

Named for the longtime business owner, the Clifton Shipman Award honors someone who has demonstrated qualities and achievements in the community. Miller's family-owned drycleaning business is celebrating in its 100th anniversary. Past winners of the Shipman Award are Doris Eklund, Steve Easler, Carson Calton, Boyd Hyder, Sammy Williams, Sandra Walker, Don Holder, Pat Shepherd, Doc Moore, Chat Jones, Danny Williams and Melissa Maurer.