More than 60 years ago, a remarkable generation of Americans joined forces to protect civilization in the largest war in world history. No amount of gratitude could ever repay the debt for the gift of democracy these veterans gave the world. 

However, HonorAir Knoxville is dedicated to honoring East Tennessee veterans and the sacrifices they made to ensure our freedom. The nonprofit organization is on a mission to take as many World War II, Korean and Vietnam veterans to Washington, DC, to visit the memorials built to honor their sacrifice. 

In its more than 10 years of service, HonorAir Knoxville has successfully completed 29 flights, taking more than 3,700 East Tennessee veterans to see the memorials. For many of these veterans, this is the trip a lifetime. 

The one-day, all-expenses-paid flight begins and ends with special celebrations at McGhee Tyson Airport, where multiple civic groups, military organizations, area businesses and private citizens step up to honor the veterans. Veterans are also welcomed home when they arrive back to Cumberland County.

Once in Washington, DC, veterans are taken on tours of the World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Marine and Air Force Memorials. In addition, the groups see the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery and drive by the Navy Memorial. 

The next flight is scheduled for April 15, 2020, and will celebrate the service and sacrifice by the women who bravely served. The itinerary will be changed to include the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. It is the only major national memorial honoring all women who have defended America throughout history since the Revolutionary War.

According to Eddie Mannis, chairman of HonorAir, "This will be our 30th flight. I wanted to focus on women veterans as 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment that guaranteed and protected women's constitutional rights and gave them the right to vote."

It costs approximately $500 to provide each veteran this honor. A benefit concert is being held Saturday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m. at the Palace Theatre to help with the cost. Titled “A Tribute to HonorAir Knoxville,” it will be hosted by Garrison Group Entertainment and will include music, comedy and plenty of patriotism.

All proceeds will to go to support HonorAir Knoxville. No donation dollars are applied to administrative expenses. Donors can be assured that every dollar they donate is applied directly to the cost of the trip. 

For tickets, please call the Palace Theatre at 931-484-6133.

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 for additional information.

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