Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Lifestyles

April 29, 2014

HonorAir Knoxville takes 16th trip to D.C.

CROSSVILLE — When the HonorAir Knoxville flight landed in Knoxville the evening of April 16, the organization successfully completed 16 flights, taking more than 2,000 East Tennessee World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington, DC, to see the memorials built to honor their sacrifices. 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.

More than 125 East Tennessee World War II and Korean War veterans traveled on this most recent flight. 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 received a send-off at McGhee Tyson Airport, in which Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett participated.

The group was welcomed home by approximately 800 people eager to thank the veterans for their service. As they walked through red, white and blue balloon arches, veterans were greeted by patriotic music provided by the Central 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. The group also saw the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. In addition to the Changing of the Guard ceremony, a special memorial service was conducted at the tomb for a recent military death with the family of those who presented the floral wreath. "Taps" was played by an Army bugler, with all viewing this service standing at attention with tears in their eyes, so solemn and so reverent.

Eddie Mannis, president of Prestige Cleaners/Prestige Tuxedo, is chairman of HonorAir Knoxville. Retired Colonel Joe Sutter, U.S. Air Force, is the flight commander, and Jim Cundall is the flight coordinator. Forty volunteer escorts flew to assist the veterans.

According to Mannis, "It is an honor for my company to participate in this program. These veterans made a great sacrifice for their country and we are proud to honor this group of special people."

Another HonorAir Knoxville flight is planned for Oct. 1 ,2014. 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. 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," said Mannis.

HonorAir is a 501(c)3 organization, and all donations are tax deductible. Anyone wishing to support the program should send checks to HonorAir Knoxville, 7536 Taggart Lane, Knoxville, TN 37938. Donations can also be made via PayPal on the HonorAir website at honorairknoxville.com.

There were 20 Cumberland County veterans on this flight. They were welcomed back to Crossville by Cumberland County First Responders and others who were on hand at 9:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express. Escort service was provided from exit 340 and a First Responder Honor Guard stood at attention while their bus drove through the welcome parade. Many local residents came out to greet them, and there was a Honor flag display that the bus drove through to the back of the motel. Veterans wanted to thank all who participated in this joyous welcome home.

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