More than 30 veterans received a homecoming, Saturday morning, many of them did not get the first time around. HonorAir Knoxville gave veterans who cannot travel to Washington D.C. their own virtual flight.
Eddie Mannis is the chairman of HonorAir Knoxville. He says they tried to create an experience as close to the real flight as possible including an airplane made of 7,000 balloons.
“So, we’ve set this up to kind of be like an airport,” said Mannis. “They are in the gate area. They will come through the honor guard when we open the curtains, then be checked by TSA, real TSA. Then they’ll go into the plane and be served by flight attendants.”
Billy Povlin served during WWII and the Korean war.
“It was really breathtaking and it brought back memories too because I knew some of the people that were killed in action in the two wars and it brought back memories.”
After taking flight, the plane landed in Washington D.C. where the veterans were escorted by police to several monuments and historical markers.
“These men and women who are traveling with us today have never had the opportunity and we could not accommodate them on another flight,” said Mannis. “So, they have never been to the memorials because they have just never been able to travel like this. It will give them a good view, they will see it first person, kind of what our veterans who travel with us see.”
After getting off the flight their friends and family welcomed them back home.
“I didn’t expect this big crowd being out here today and welcoming us back home and thanking us for serving,” said Povlin.