WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Met by a water-cannon salute, waving flags, and friendly faces, veterans from three wars descended upon Washington D-C. They came by air and rode behind a police escort to monuments honoring their service and those who gave their life for the country.
“Let me speak on behalf of lots and lots of Tennesseans, to say thank you for coming, thank you for your service and we’re here for you today,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).
Each of the 129 men and women on the trip has a story to tell, but we turned our focus to that of Paul Thornton – a Korean and World War two veteran.
The former Sgt. Major with the U.S. Marine Corps said he may be disheartened by the current state of the country, but he’s proud of his service. “You don’t realize what it’s all about until you’re here. It brings back a lot of memories,” said Thornton.
This isn’t his first trip to see the monument, but he said it’s more powerful this time, surrounded by those who know all too well the men and women lost to war. “This is very meaningful,” he said as he choked back tears, “the remembrance of those who aren’t here today, who are really the heroes, I’m not the hero, they’re the heroes.”
Seventeen-year-old Lincoln Dillman wrote an essay to become a volunteer on the trip. “We need to honor those that gave us the freedom that we have,” he offered to explain its theme.
Dillman has waved flags at send-offs before, but says catching more than a snapshot changes the perspective.
Thornton said making the trip with fellow service-members is a treat, but he’s looking forward to seeing a particular familiar face after the return flight. “I have a wonderful wife Ruth,” he said, “who’s the [apple] of my eye.”
HonorAir of Knoxville, Tenn. reaches a milestone of its own with the flight. They’ve made 25 trips now over its ten years in operation. In doing so, more than 32-hundred Knoxville veterans had the opportunity to see the monuments crafted in their memory.