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Veterans and escorts take a break during the recent HonorAir Knoxville Flight 29 to Washington, DC.

When the HonorAir Knoxville flight returned  Oct. 2, the program successfully completed 29 flights taking more than 3,700 East Tennessee veterans to Washington, DC, to see the memorials built to honor their sacrifices.

The program is dedicated to taking as many East Tennessee World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans as possible on this special trip. The one-day, all-expense-paid trip includes a chartered flight and tours of the WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, Marine and Air Force Memorials.

Boy Scouts from the Smoky Mountain Council greeted veterans arriving at McGhee Tyson Airport in the morning. After proceeding through a military Honor Guard from the Knoxville Military Entrance Processing Station, they received a send-off with Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs.

“Over the years, the program has become a community event,” said Eddie Mannis, HonorAir Knoxville founder and chairman. “Multiple civic groups, military organizations, hospitals, city and county government employees, area businesses and private citizens have stepped forward to be a part of HonorAir Knoxville. In addition, over a thousand people came to the airport to welcome the veterans home.”

Mannis is president of Prestige Cleaners and Prestige Tuxedo, which founded and presents the program. To date, Covenant Health has been a major sponsor of each flight.

“Our partnership with the Smoky Mountain Air Show and the generosity of many businesses, organizations and individuals have made it possible to continue honoring the contributions veterans have made to ensuring our freedoms,” said Mannis. “However, the program costs about $300,000 annually. It’s future depends heavily on the support of the community.”

HonorAir Knoxville is a 501(c)(3) organization. Donations are tax deductible. Prestige provides all administrative support so every dollar donated is applied directly to the cost of the flight.

Veterans interested in taking a future HonorAir Knoxville flight can download an application at www.honorairknoxville.com. Cumberland County residents may contact Gus Gocella at 931-788-6276 (home),  931-787-2735 (cell) or gdw1013@gmail.com.

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