D.A.R. Welcomes Honor Air Knoxville to October Meeting

“Eddie, you don’t understand. Now, I am home.”

Those were the words of a Vietnam War veteran who had just returned from Washington, D.C., on an HonorAir Flight. Eddie is Eddie Mannis, founder of HonorAir Knoxville, a non-profit organization which takes veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War from East Tennessee to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials which honor their sacrifice. The trips are provided at no cost to the veterans.

Mannis spoke at the October meeting of the Martha Dandridge Washington Chapter (MDW), National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) at the First United Methodist Church in Dandridge.

On its 29 flights, HonorAir Knoxville has hosted more than 3700 veterans and their escorts on the trip that departs from McGhee-Tyson Airport in the morning and returns the same evening to a multitude of well-wishers gathered to welcome them home.

Originally, the flights were begun to honor World War II veterans; however, with the passage of time, fewer and fewer of those veterans are still with us or are in good enough health to make the flight, Mannis explained. On Flight 29, there were ten WWII veterans, and the rest were from the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Among the WWII veterans was one who was 99 years old.

At first, participants were restricted to “boots on the ground” or active combat vets from WWII. Since then, it has been expanded to include veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars. Moreover, now others such as nurses and USO members. The United Services Organization (USO) provided support and encouragement to those in combat. When Flight 30 takes off April 15, 2020, the passenger list will consist entirely of women veterans.

Mannis noted that since many of our WWII veterans are quite old and in ill health, some unfortunately have died or are too infirm to take the flight. To see that the needs of the veterans are met, volunteer escorts are assigned three veterans each, and every flight has a full medical team from Lifestar to give medical care.

Everything connected with the flight experience is first-rate. HonorAir Knoxville has never lost a veteran on a trip. However, one had to stay overnight in Washington, D.C., due to illness, but the organizers had him returned to Knoxville on a private plane, Mannis explained.

Mannis goes on every flight. He remarked that the day can be tiring for the escorts, so much so that “when the flight returns, the veterans are walking more upright than their escorts.”

Mannis said that the flights are therapeutic. Some veterans such as those from WWII came home to a warm welcome after that conflict, but others such as those from Vietnam had no real welcome home. What they experienced was disrespect, guilt, and hostility.

After one of the flights, a veteran’s wife happily told Mannis that the man who left in the morning was not the same man who returned. A veteran who had been troubled by vivid nightly nightmares said he had hoped the visit to the Vietnam Wall would help him find peace. After the visit, he no longer had terrifying images troubling his sleep.

The cost of sending one veteran on the trip is approximately $500.00, and donations can be made through the website. Veterans, volunteer escorts, and student ambassadors can sign up through the website as well. The public is invited to join the crowd at the airport to welcome the veterans home.

The members of the MDW, NSDAR, contribute monthly toward a fund with the goal of sponsoring a veteran on a flight and were honored to inform Mannis that the chapter had forwarded a $500.00 donation to the treasurer of the Tennessee Society Daughters of the American Revolution for the benefit of HonorAir Knoxville. In addition, it was reported that $125.00 was forwarded by the chapter to the Greater Smoky Mountain Council of Regents, which consists of the Samuel Doak, Spencer Clack, William Cocke, and MDW Chapters, NSDAR, as a joint chapter project for the benefit of HonorAir Knoxville.

To learn more about HonorAir, visit their website at www.honorairknoxville.com.

For information about the DAR, contact Registrar Karen McFarland at (865) 258-8670 or Regent Jane Chambers at (865) 591-3857.

Eddie Mannis, founder of HonorAir Knoxville, Carolyn Mitchell, MDW DAR Service for Veterans Chairman
Source: Jane Busdeker