Last week I had the wonderful privilege of working with HonorAir Knoxville. This nonprofit organization takes WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam Veterans to Washington, DC for them to see the monuments that were built in their honor.
Being in DC I found out there was a trip scheduled, and I contacted Eddie Mannis, who started this great organization in East Tennessee (and I’m pretty sure is Batman or another superhero.) He got me the info and arranged for me to meet them at the airport.
I arrived and the first person I saw was my beloved Mayor, who gave me a big hug. Since we’ve met, she’s agreed to be my wingman with the ladies. She asked who was taking over her duties while I was here in DC (hint: he lives in a white house.) Then the vets started coming through and were greeted by about a dozen volunteers with flags waving and cheering, welcoming them to the nation’s capitol.
We boarded buses and off we went to the Air Force Memorial where we had box lunches and paid tribute to the service with the smartest members 😉 and Senator Bob Corker came to meet the heroes.
Then we went to to the Vietnam and Korean War memorials. That’s where I met David Boyd, a Vietnam Army veteran, who needed a driver for his wheelchair. We made a quick stop at the bathroom, which happened to be in the Lincoln Memorial. So of course we stopped to pay homage to Abe. Then we walked the Vietnam memorial. This is an emotional experience no matter who you are, but more so when you’re with someone who was there and knew men whose names are forever inscribed on that wall.
We took our time and then decided to walk along the reflection pool, where David told me about being shot twice. He told me the story very casually the same I tell people about when I got a small cut on my cheek during some training in TX. Not a real big deal to him. We joked how after the first time, he was sure that since he had been shot, he obviously was going home. Then how they sent him back into battle again, and then again the second time. He didn’t get to go home until he came down with malaria just before his tour was done. A little bit different than when I cut my hand at work the other week.
We watched the changing of the guard at Arlington at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, then a quick debarking at the Iwo Jima memorial. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to witness the best part of the day, but I did last year. The trip ends with getting off the aircraft in Knoxville, where thousands of people welcome home these heroes, many of which never got a proper welcome home.
I got to speak to several veterans learning about all they’ve done for our country. One thing I’ve learned from being in the military is that everyone has a story and almost always they are more interesting than you could ever imagine. And almost ALWAYS the storytellers think it is no big deal. It was easily the best day in DC I’ve had yet and so appreciative of what HonorAir Knoxville does for our vets. I encourage anyone reading this to donate, and anyone in Knoxville to volunteer or come out for the welcome home next flight. It really makes one appreciate the freedom these men and women have fought for.