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When the HonorAir flight landed in Knoxville the evening of April 18, the organization successfully completed 12 flights taking more than 1,300 East Tennessee World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the memorials built to honor their sacrifices.
Among the 130 veterans on this most recent flight were Roane County’s Clyfton Chandler, Eddie Owings and Charles Wilson, accompanied by volunteer guardian John Owings.
HonorAir Knoxville is a program established and presented by Prestige Cleaners to honor veterans. Covenant Health has been a major sponsor of each of the flights taken to date.
Scouts from the Smoky Mountain Council were on hand to greet veterans and escort them as they arrived at the airport in the morning.
After walking through an Honor Guard from the Knoxville Military Entrance Processing Station, the veterans at McGhee Tyson Airport received a send-off from Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Sgt. 1st Class Sammy Davis, the 1968 Medal of Honor recipient.
The group was welcomed home by hundreds of friends, family and HonorAir supporters.
As they walked through red, white and blue balloon arches, veterans were greeted by patriotic music provided by the Powell High School marching band and the sight of American flags waving.
The one-day, all-expense-paid trip via a U.S. Airways chartered flight includes tours of the World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Marine and Air Force memorials.
In addition, the group saw the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
Eddie Mannis, president of Prestige Cleaners and Knoxville deputy mayor, is chairman of Honor-Air Knoxville.
Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Joe Sutter is the flight commander, and Jim Cundall is the flight coordinator.
Forty volunteer escorts flew to assist the veterans.
“It is an honor for my company to participate in this program,” Mannis said. “These veterans made a great sacrifice for their country and we are proud to honor this group of special people.”
Sixteen million Americans served in World War II. Now there are a little more than 1.5 million veterans alive.
According to national statistics these men and women are passing away at a rate of anywhere from 1,500-1,700 a day.
The Korean War is often referred to as the “forgotten war.” However, more than 36,000 Americans lost their lives in this global conflict.
Many veterans of these two wars have never seen the World War II and Korean War Memorials so one of HonorAir Knoxville’s goals is to take as many area veterans as possible on these special flights.
Another HonorAir Knoxville flight is planned for Oct. 3.
However, according to Mannis, future flights will be dependent on the level of funding the program receives from the community.
“Each flight costs about $60,000,” he 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; all donations are tax deductible.
Anyone wishing to support the program may send checks to HonorAir Knoxville, 7536 Taggart Lane, Knoxville, TN 37938.
Donations can also be made via PayPal on the HonorAir website at honor airknoxville.com.