Vets make emotional trip to Washington memorials as part of Hono

Vets make emotional trip to Washington memorials as part of HonorAir program

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At the Vietnam Memorial, veteran Mark Elkins struggled out of his wheelchair to touch the name of his nephew Bruce, killed in action at the age of 19. At the Vietnam Memorial, veteran Mark Elkins struggled out of his wheelchair to touch the name of his nephew Bruce, killed in action at the age of 19.
6 News Anchor Lori Tucker and her father Bill Davis, a Korean War veteran, arrive home from D.C. 6 News Anchor Lori Tucker and her father Bill Davis, a Korean War veteran, arrive home from D.C.
An Honor Guard from the Knoxville Military Entrance Processing Station saluted each veteran as they made their way to the US Airways gate. An Honor Guard from the Knoxville Military Entrance Processing Station saluted each veteran as they made their way to the US Airways gate.

By LORI TUCKER
6 News Anchor

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WATE) - More than 125 East Tennessee veterans made some new memories this week on HonorAir Knoxville's 14th flight.

They were part of HonorAir Knoxville's tribute to their service - a day trip packed with emotional activities in Washington, D.C.

6 News Anchor Lori Tucker not only got to go along, but she was able to share the special time with her dad, Bill Davis, who served in the Navy as Chief Signalman for Task Force 77 in the Korean War.

The day began at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 24 as veterans and their volunteer escorts arrived at McGhee Tyson Airport.

Scouts from the Smoky Mountain Council greeted the veterans from World War II and the Korean War.

An Honor Guard from the Knoxville Military Entrance Processing Station saluted each veteran as they made their way to the US Airways gate.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett provided their thanks and well-wishes moments before the plane took off for the nation's capitol.

It truly was a trip of a lifetime that brought old memories of service and duty flooding back.

The group toured all of the major war memorials and the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

They saw the beautiful three soaring spires of the Air Force Memorial, the stark reminders of the Korean War's night patrol.

Veteran Olin Hall remembered, "I had a lot of buddies that got wounded. Thank goodness they signed the truce. I was on the front lines when they signed the truce."

"It's just unbelievable to see pictures, faces on men in that war. I had so many friends that were lost in that war. It's just amazing to see it," said Davis tearfully, looking at the larger-than-life soldier sculptures and the reflective wall with etched depictions of those who served.

At the Vietnam Memorial, veteran Mark Elkins struggled out of his wheelchair to touch the name of his nephew Bruce, killed in action at the age of 19.

"Yeah, I babysat him," Elkins said with a heavy sigh. "He won a Purple Heart the first time he went over there."

Most of the veterans had never seen the World War II Memorial. As each day goes by, we cherish them all the more.

16 million Americans served in that war.

Now, there are fewer than a million World War II veterans still with us, and according to national statistics, we're losing men and women from this war at a rate of 2,000 every day.

No matter their service, from the front lines to the Red Cross, everyone had a vital role in protecting and preserving our freedom.

So it's only fitting that more than 800 of our most patriotic proudly waving red, white, and blue, were there to welcome the veterans back from an amazing day in D.C.

It was a homecoming even bigger than many veterans received when they returned from war so many years ago.

So thank you to all of our veterans. And thank you to Eddie Mannis, President of Prestige Cleaners and Deputy Mayor of Knoxville, who is Chairman of HonorAir Knoxville.

Retired Colonel Joe Sutter, US Air Force, was Flight Commander, and Jim Cundall serves as Flight Coordinator.

Covenant Health is a major sponsor of the HonorAir Flights.

Another HonorAir Knoxville flight is planned for fall this year. But, according to Mannis, future flights will depend on funding received by the community.

"Each flight costs about $60,000," Mannis said. "Although our major sponsors and Prestige donate substantial amounts of money to the program, we need additional donations to make the flights a reality. Prestige also provides all the administrative support to the program so every dollar raised is applied directly to the cost of the flight."

HonorAir is a 501 (c) (3) organization, so all donations are tax deductible.

If you would like to support the program, send donations by check to:

HonorAir Knoxville
7536 Taggart Lane
Knoxville, TN 37938

Or you can make a donation online via PayPal at the HonorAir Knoxville website.

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