Administrative Officer Sam Bounds Takes HonorAir Trip to D.C.Posted: 10/12/2015
As a Vietnam Veteran, Knox County DA's Office Administrative Officer Sam Bounds (2nd from right in photo) had the honor to be selected for the HonorAir Flight that traveled on Wednesday, October 7th to Washington D.C. Sam, a Chief Warrant Officer – 2 (CWO – 2) of the United States Marine Corps, along with 23 World War II Veterans, 54 Korean War Veterans, and 58 Vietnam Veterans, received the opportunity to tour the World War II Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, Marine Corps Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery.
HonorAir Knoxville is a non-profit established by Eddie Mannis, President/CEO of Prestige Cleaners. This year's all-expenses-paid-trip is the first to include Vietnam Veterans. After a full day of events in Washington, the flight returned to Knoxville at about 8 pm. In the airport terminal a crowd of approximately 300 people were standing by to welcome all of these war veterans home. The veterans navigated the gauntlet of well-wishers, which was a very moving experience to witness and so emotional for them.
Upon returning to work the next day, Sam gave us a first-hand account of his experience:
Just wanted to let everyone know about my trip yesterday. As most of you know, I have been known the last several years to take a trip or two. This trip is by far the highlight of my life. First of all it was a very heartwarming and humbling experience for me. Two things stand out more than anything else: First, just being included with the WW II and Korean War Veterans was an honor unto itself. For me, they are my true heroes.
And second, as a Vietnam Veteran, let’s just say that I was not treated very nicely when I returned to the States. I flew out of San Francisco back to Tennessee in June of 1970. That says it all. This time, the welcome that we received at the Airport here and in Washington was just absolutely amazing. When we arrived at McGee Tyson Airport in the morning, there were around 30 Boy Scouts that greeted us along with about 40 volunteers who were there to help those that needed it. They were tremendous. We had a 2-hour fog delay here and did not leave until 11a.m. The Airport provided us with water and snacks because of the wait. The Airport gave us a water cannon salute as we were leaving - very cool.
When we arrived in Washington, a crowd of people that were clapping and thanking us for our service met us as we were exiting the plane. As we made our way out to the buses, everyone would stop and clap and thank us. Trust me, I have never had that happen to me. Once on the buses - four of them - we had a police escort for the entire tour. Our first stop was the Vietnam and Korean Memorials. I have been there a few times, but had not experienced it like this. There were several groups of students and I lost count of how many shook my hand and thanked me for my service. What they do not realize is, it was an honor for me to serve. The next stop was the WW II Memorial, which is one of the most impressive memorials there. As we walked around, I watched the twenty-three WW II Veterans in our group. I could tell which ones were seeing it for the first time. You could see the emotion on their faces. The ages of the twenty-three Veterans ranged from 88 to 98 with two being women. All needed some help to get around, but they managed to make it. As we were walking out toward the buses, there was a class of students who were standing and clapping for us. That is the thing that I will remember the most.
Our next stop was something very near and dear to my heart: The Marine Corps Iwo Jima Statue, which obviously I consider the most impressive. I have been to it at least six times and I still get goose bumps when I look at it. It may be the most recognizable statue in the world, or at least in my eyes and heart. We only were able to stay there for about 20 minutes because of our earlier delay. Our next stop was to be Arlington Cemetery, but because of our delays, we were unable to see the Changing of the Guard.
When we arrived back at the Airport in Washington, we proceeded to our gate and again, we were met by people clapping. There was a Barber Shop Quartet singing patriotic songs as we started boarding; again very impressive. When we landed in Knoxville it became even more emotional. There seemed to be 300 or more people there. When I finally made it to the crowd and shook my first hand, it took me more than an hour to get to the end. It was wonderful to see all the kids that were there, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service. Of course it made it a little more special because my wife, my daughter, my grandson, and my great grandson were there to welcome me home. Anyone that says a Marine cannot shed a tear is wrong.
This is one day in my life that will forever live in my heart. This was a first-class trip that was organized by Eddie Mannis with Prestige Cleaners. He has now done 19 trips and has touched the hearts and lives of over 2,500 Veterans and their family and friends. It is amazing how the mindset of the American people has changed in the last 45 years and especially in the last 14 years. If you ever get a chance to attend the welcome home after the flight, it will not disappoint you. – Sam
We know that Sam had a very heartwarming and memorable experience, and while we recognize that words cannot adequately express our enduring appreciation, today we extend a huge "THANK YOU" to Sam and all of the Veterans for their honorable service and sacrifice for America. Be sure to look for our story in November about Sam and all of the Military Veterans who currently work for the DA’s Office.