Luke’s Wings was co-founded in January 2008 by Sarah Wingfield and Fletcher Gill after a chance meeting with a recovering warrior, U.S. Army Sergeant Luke Shirley, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, now Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, MD.
In May of 2007, Sarah Wingfield, a Redskins Cheerleader Ambassador, was on a morale visit at Walter Reed when she met U.S. Army Sergeant Luke Shirley, a double amputee recovering from his injuries far away from his loved ones. Trying to start up a conversation, Sarah immediately noticed that Luke was disinterested in talking to anyone. However, his entire demeanor changed when his mom, who was there serving as his non-medical attendant, walked into the room.
They found that the government provides just three flights for loved ones to be present upon a service member’s initial injury.
Sarah shared her experience with co-founder, Fletcher Gill, a few months later and, after learning more, they found that the government provides just three flights for loved ones to be present upon initial injury. Once those flights are purchased, usually within the first weeks of being injured, families and friends are financially responsible for their own transportation to and from the hospital. From this conversation, Luke’s Wings was created with the purpose of raising money to book flights for loved ones to visit their warriors at Walter Reed. Named after the two people who inspired the idea of “flying families and lifting spirits,” Luke’s Wings was there to support the long and difficult road to recovery.
When Luke’s Wings was founded in 2008, it was operated as a strictly volunteer-based organization with a clear and solo mission of providing complimentary airfare for our warrior families. Over a decade later, Luke’s Wings remains committed to maintaining a simple and transparent mission: to support the community of wounded, ill, and injured service members and their loved ones with the gift of flight. Today, we now serve a long list of military medical facilities, VA medical centers, and hospice facilities across the country and have provided airfare for families across all 50 states and internationally.