Teenager Supports Honor Flights, with Bluegrass and Pancakes
The Spontaneous Mountain Boys: From left, Jonathan Dillard on fiddle; his father, David. on mandolin; Gavin Gossett, upright bass; Buddy Greene, vocals and guitar; and Chris Joslin, banjo and dobro. The group’s "Pancakes and Bluegrass" event, initiated by 17-year-old Jonathan, raised enough money for Honor Flights Network in one morning to pay for eight World War II veterans to visit the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C.
Jonathan Dillard is a 17-year-old beekeeper and bluegrass musician from Nashville, Tennessee. This summer, he organized a fundraiser for The Honor Flight Network, which arranges for veterans who otherwise could not afford the trip to travel to Washington, D.C., and visit the memorials to the sacrifices made by them and their comrades. World War II veterans and terminally ill veterans of any of America’s wars presently have top priority, but the Network’s Website says that will gradually transition to veterans of the wars in Korea and Vietnam and all other veterans chronologically.
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On a blisteringly hot Tennessee morning, Jonathan and several other musicians performed on an outdoor stage in his Crieve Hall neighborhood to entertain listeners while other volunteers cooked and served pancakes to the crowd. Money from admission and voluntary donations all went to the Honor Flight Network. ArmchairGeneral.com’s editor, Gerald Swick, happened to be present that morning and was struck by this young man’s dedication to helping veterans. He snapped the accompanying photographs and interviewed Jonathan.
Armchair General: Jonathan, we understand you only turned 17 this summer. Sad to say, there aren’t a lot of teenagers who have a great interest in history. How did you come to develop your interest in World War II?
Jonathan Dillard: My whole life I’ve been fascinated with the military. I have veterans scattered throughout my family, and I’ve gotten to hear stories from them. I’ve also visited the Pearl Harbor memorial in Hawaii. As a child I read countless books and watched lots of old war movies. It was just something I was brought up on and taught to appreciate.
ACG: How did you learn about the Honor Flight Network, and why did you decide to get involved in raising funds for it?
JD: I’ve seen TV specials about the organization and known veterans who have flown. I’ve always thought it was a great cause. When I had the opportunity this summer to do something for the community, I couldn’t think of another cause that I was already familiar with and interested in.
ACG: Your initial fundraiser was a "Pancakes and Bluegrass" event. How did you come up with that concept?
JD: Honestly, I brainstormed with my parents for a while. My dad and I love playing bluegrass music and have several friends who play, so it wasn’t difficult to find entertainment for the event—and including pancakes just seemed like a natural thing to do.
ACG: How much were you able to raise for the program?
JD: The event raised $3,950—almost enough to send eight World War II veterans to Washington.
ACG: You play bluegrass—impressively, we might add—and given your last name we have to ask: Are you related to The Dillards, the bluegrass group who helped pioneer electrified instruments in bluegrass and played the musical sons of the Darling family on The Andy Griffith Show?
JD: I’ve been asked this a lot! As far as I know of, no, we’re not.
ACG: What are your future plans, once you’ve graduated high school?
JD: This fall, I’m planning to apply to the United States Coast Guard Academy, located in Connecticut. If accepted, I’ll likely make being an officer in the Coast Guard my career!
ACG: Thanks for talking with us and for what you’re doing to help the Honor Flight program. Is there anything you’d like to add?
JD: Thank you! Besides raising funds for Honor Flight, most importantly, this event informed a whole neighborhood about a great cause. Take time and go to the Honor Flight Network Website and read how the organization got started. It’s amazing! What they’re doing is the same as pinning a medal to the chest of every veteran who sacrificed to serve our country.