KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Twenty local veterans departed from Crossroads Methodist Church in Kingsport for a trip to Washington D.C to visit war memorials last Friday.
The veterans returned home Sunday evening, and were welcomed by several members of the community.
Honor Flight of the Appalachian Highlands is an organization that gives local veterans the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. to honor their service. These trips are of no cost to veterans.
Upon arriving home, the church parking lot was lined with people waving flags, holding signs and cheering on those who went on the weekend trip. Honor Flight organizers said this is their way of honoring veterans in a way that they deserve.
Honor Flight of the Appalachian Highlands President Michelle Stewart said that these veterans are getting the proper welcome home that many did not have years ago.
“The best thing that happens on this trip is they get a lot of ‘Thank You’s’ and they get the recognition that they’ve not ever had,” Stewart said. “They had a welcome home that many of them did not have.”
Veterans who attended the trip said they made memories that will last them a lifetime. Vietnam War veteran Coy Clark said that connecting with fellow veterans was a special part of this trip.
“Most of all, I loved the camaraderie,” Clark said. “Seeing my old buddies, seeing people I served with, that fought for this country like I would have. That’s the most important thing to me.”
Fellow Vietnam War veteran Willie Parmer shared a similar feeling.
“I met a lot of people this weekend,” Parmer said. “Not only the veterans but the staff, and everybody was just marvelous.”
One of the stops along the trip was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Four of the veterans were given the opportunity to place a wreath on the Tomb.
Honor Flight Guardians tagged along with veterans during the trip. Guardian Rick Trivett said that visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Solder was an experience that he would not forget.
“The best part was being at the Tomb of the Unknown,” Trivett said. “My dad was able to be a part of laying a wreath there.”
“It’s just overwhelming,” said Guardian Tom Masner. “And then four of those men on that bus got to actually set the wreath, that just give me chills.”
Masner, a veteran himself, has served as a guardian for thirteen trips. He said traveling alongside those who understand his experience is special.
“Friday night when we stopped at the wall, one of the fellows, he just didn’t want to go,” Masner said. “So I walked down there with him to look at the wall, and we both cried. But afterwards, just on the bus today, he said ‘I didn’t want to do that, but I’m so glad I did.”
The Honor Flight is open to all Veterans, with priority given to those who served during World War II, the Korean War, and The Vietnam War.