Public welcomes home Vietnam War veterans from HonorAir trip

HonorAir Knoxville is dedicated to flying as many East Tennessee veterans as possible free of charge to see the memorials built in their honor.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – HonorAir sent more veterans to Washington D.C. Wednesday. Nearly 150 Vietnam War veterans left Knoxville to visit memorials in the nation’s capital.

“There’s a friend of mine named Richard Dunlap. We practically went into service together, went to basic training and jump school and he was unfortunately killed in Vietnam. And I’m just looking forward to seeing him and seeing the wall with his name on it,” said Vietnam Veteran Ronald Green.

Larry Tidwell and Kenneth Jenkins say they’ve waited years for something like this.

“I think it’s closure on friends that didn’t come home and units and companies,” said Tidwell, a Vietnam veteran. “I think just to see their names and the memorials.”

“The guys on the wall, if it wasn’t for them fighting for our country I wouldn’t have made it back, a lot of these guys wouldn’t have made it back,” said Jenkins. “They fought for us to make it back and they fought for the country also, so I honor them.”

“You think about what we went through over there and what we went through when we got back and this right here helps us,” said Jenkins.

The public is encouraged to help welcome them home Wednesday night. The Central High School band will play music for the occasion. The veterans will return to McGhee-Tyson Airport at 8:15 p.m.

“When we return home and our veterans see all the flags, patriotic balloons and people lined up to welcome them they are incredibly touched that people care about the sacrifices they made for their country,” said HonorAir Chairman Eddie Mannis, “It will be especially moving for the Vietnam veterans whose recognition has been so long in coming.”

The trip was HonorAir’s 21st time sending veterans to D.C. The company has flown over 2,800 veterans. The organization provides a one-day, all expense paid trip to veterans and leads them on tours to the World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Marine and Air Force Memorials. Veterans see the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Smoky Mountain Air Show announced a $350,000 donation to HonorAir during the departure ceremony Wednesday morning.

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