East Tennessee veterans fly HonorAir to see memorials in D.C.

East Tennessee veterans fly HonorAir to see memorials in D.C.

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Some of the veterans posed with Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis (far right). Some of the veterans posed with Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis (far right).
The veterans also caught up while they were waiting to board the flight. The veterans also caught up while they were waiting to board the flight.
World War II Veteran Irene Ladish is one of the few women on the trip. World War II Veteran Irene Ladish is one of the few women on the trip.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

ALCOA (WATE) - One hundred thirty World War II and Korean War veterans went on a very special trip Wednesday, thanks to HonorAir. They visited Washington D.C. to see the memorials built to honor their sacrifices.

Although many of the veterans had never met before, WWII veteran Bud Plemens says their experience makes them feel like family.

"It's great to be back with this band of brothers," he said. "That's the way I feel about these old, crippled up veterans like myself."

World War II Veteran Irene Ladish is one of the few women on the trip. "I'm really honored today. It makes me feel wonderful," she said.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett were on hand to see the group off from McGhee Tyson Airport.

Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis was also there to show support.

"This medal around my neck has my name on the back of it, but it doesn't mean it belongs to me," said Davis, who served as a sergeant first class. "I'm just the caretaker. It belongs to the men behind me."

Many of the veterans are seeing the memorials for the first time.

Davis says it's unforgettable. "They represent your brothers that lost their lives there so when you walk down through there, it's like your walking with your brothers again and it's awesome."

The non-profit organization HonorAir funds the flight through donations. Each flight costs about $60,000. HonorAir has had 12 flights and taken 1,300 veterans on the trip in the past.

For many of the veterans, it's the trip of a lifetime. "I can't believe this is happening to me. This is the best thing that's ever happened to me as being a veteran," Bud Plemens said. "It really is."

The veterans were welcomed home Wednesday night when the flight returned to McGhee Tyson.

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