“Instead of a block party, I hosted a community gathering so that everyone would be included,” began Edie. “The next year I became aware of the Honor Flight Hub in St. Louis and our neighborhood raised over $2,000 to help take veterans to see their memorials in Washington.” The bug bit Edie and she is now the founder, president and CEO of Honor Flight of North East Tennessee.
With her 14th trip just completed Edie is already making plans for the next trip in October 2019. Each veteran is chosen to make the trip by Edie who considers their ages and theatre of service. With a big sendoff from Johnson City that includes a police escort, tributes by the fire department and a motorcycle escort by local chapters of riders (many of whom are veterans themselves), the veterans depart for their trip to the nation’s capital.
“It costs $400 to sponsor each veteran,” Edie explained. “We raise money by hosting fundraisers throughout the year. We will have a meal at Texas Roadhouse in Johnson City on June 10, a family photo session in August, and a Tables of Honor Banquet in September where people can purchase a table to decorate for eight people for $400. [Each table] will pay for the trip for one veteran.”
There are no paid staff members, nor does Edie receive a salary. “It costs from $16,000 to $17,000 to make one of these trips,” Edie explained, “and every penny raised goes directly to cover the cost of our trips.”
Once in Washington, the veterans visit a host of events.
“We see the changing of the Guard and wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, the Pentagon 9-11 Memorial, the Navy Memorial, the WW II Memorial, and the Korean and Vietnam Memorials,” Edie continued. “The American Legion Post No. 177 hosts the Honor Flight veterans on Saturday and the Ladies Auxiliary has a Saturday night dinner. Jerry Pierce and Libby Hatcher travel with us so that they can entertain the veterans after dinner.”
One reoccurring statement from each veteran as they visit these historic sights is that the true heroes didn’t come home; they gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Edie’s Honor Flight Hub is one of only seven hubs nationwide that transports the veterans by bus. “They seem to enjoy the camaraderie that the bus ride provides,” Edie shared. “We have a mail call for each soldier where they receive a mail bag chock full of letters from family and friends. This is one of the most special moments for these veterans as they read letters expressing the love and admiration they have at home.”
Guardians go along to provide personal service for each veteran. Edie welcomes applications in advance of each trip. “If we don’t have a family member to go along, I match up the veterans with the person I think is best suited for them. We have created lifelong friendships that are a blessing to both guardian and veteran,” Edie explained.
Each trip is unique and provides Edie along with the guardians and veterans an emotional and memorable experience. “I know my job is well done when a veteran says, ‘this is the No. 1 trip of all my journeys’.”
From quiet times around each memorial to conga lines at the Saturday evening meal, Edie sees each veteran share a time in their lives that was very special. John 15:13 sums up the heart-felt gratitude that is prevalent throughout the bus ride up and back: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And by taking American’s veterans to Washington, Honor Flight respectfully honors their service to God and Country.
To become involved with Honor Flight or to help sponsor a veteran, contact Edie Lowry at firstname.lastname@example.org, by telephone at (423) 330-6189, or visit the website at https://honorfightnetn.org.