KNOXVILLE, Tenn (WVLT)-- More than 1200 veterans form East Tennessee have now seen the memorials in our nation's capitol that were built in their honor, the Korean War Memorial and the WWII Memorial.
Local 8 news reporter Michele Silva was on board the 11th HonorAir Flight on October 5, 2011.
The flight was delayed because of a problem with the aircraft, but they squeezed it all in!
Silva says she is amazed at the organization and generosity of the HonorAir Knoxville crew.
They tend to the veterans every needs, along with help from the guardians, the volunteer chaperones.
Silva also says it was amazing to watch the crew and their flight medics/physicians care for the precious cargo. (Luckily, no emergencies, just a dose of TLC here and there and timely meds.)
The amount of support along the route for our veterans is outstanding.
Starting with the HonorAir Crew, the TYS airport staff, all the way to the D.C. airport staff, and the Washington tour guides, bus drivers, even passengers in the airport extended gratitude.Silva captures the story (with a Flip video camera, her cell phone video camera, and Pro-Go mini video camera) on the other side of the flight, once the veterans arrive in Washington, D.C.
The veterans were greeted with a lot of fan fare, cheers and thank yous from the passengers and crew of US Airways at Reagan International Airport. (Passengers in the airport sang God Bless America for the East Tennessee vets.)
Then, the group is whisked away on 4 private coach buses, with a police escort, eating a (well-balanced) boxed lunch along the way.
A tour guide announces all historical attractions and tid bits of info while the group sees as many military and war memorials as possible on route.
The group of about 130 veterans, HonorAir crew members, two Flight Medics and guardians walked around both the Korean War Memorial and the WWII Memorial.
The grand finale of the trip came at Arlington National Cemetery for the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Once back at the airport, the veterans are thrown another party at the gate.
Dancers and music from the 40's era entertain, and even get some of the soldiers and marines to kick up their heels.
Once on board the plane for TYS, Eddie Mannis, Chairman of HonorAir Knoxville, delivers letters and cards from family and friends.
It's mail call, just like in the service.
Some cried as they opened their special delivery.
Many contained photos, of their kids, grand kids, even pictures of the servicemen and women from "back then."
They also sing service songs on the flight home.
Once home at McGhee Tyson Airport, the crew walks through a tunnel of support, love and thanks.
Mannis says this is the biggest homecoming ever for HonorAir Knoxville.
It's estimated between 700-800 people clapped and and thanked while holding balloons and/or waving flags came out, along with the Pride of the Southland Marching Band, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and many other community groups.
The next trip is set for April 18, 2012.
Get info as a veteran or a guardian on board by grabbing the link in the box for HonorAir Knoxville.
This is not a government funded program, they rely on the community's help and donations.
Each Flight costs approximately $60,000.
Vets fly free.
Guardians cost about $400.
Veterans of WWII are given first priority.
Korean War Vets are next.