Over the course of a lifetime people come across things that leave a lasting impression. Often times, these revelations turn into a passion. For me, one of these passions is serving veterans, who gave so much of their lives serving our nation.
Being the son of a Korean War veteran, I already had an enormous appreciation for the men and women who served. But in January 2007, I was approached by a colleague in North Carolina about a program they were going to do that honored veterans with a trip to Washington, D.C., and he wanted me to come over and be a part. I accepted his invitation and traveled over to serve as a volunteer escort to several WWII veterans. This trip was so emotionally impactful for me, and so honoring for the veterans on the flight, that driving back across the mountains into Knoxville I knew it was something the veterans of East Tennessee deserved.
Assembling a team of my own, the initial trip was planned for November, later that same year. I never really thought that it would go farther than that first trip. But, with the outpouring of support and a steadily growing list of veterans interested in taking a trip of their own, I simply couldn’t say no. HonorAir Knoxville was born.
Initially the HonorAir Knoxville flights consisted only of WWII veterans. We could fill the plane with 132+ veterans and still have more than enough left on a waiting list to keep the flights going. A few years into the flights it became apparent that, due to age and time, it was harder and harder to fill that same plane up with WWII veterans, and we were able to add Korean War veterans into the mix. Finally in 2016, with the available numbers of both WWII and Korean War veterans continuing to lower, HonorAir Knoxville was able to add Vietnam War veterans to these flights. To date, Twenty-seven flights and 3500+ veterans served later, HonorAir Knoxville keeps going strong with no plans of stopping in the foreseeable future.
To say that the service of so many men and women have left a lasting impression on my life would fall short in its description. I will forever be in debt to the men and women of this country that paid the ultimate cost, and will continue to do all I can for surviving veterans and their families.