According to their website, www.honorair.com, HonorAir “provides local veterans with escorted trips to the World War II Memorial” in Washington, D.C., who may have not been able to visit because of physical or financial limitiations.

My wife, Carol, and I went over to our local airport in Clinton, Tenn., recently to help welcome local World War II and Korean War veterans back from their day in Washington, D.C., with the HonorAir Knoxville (Tenn.) flight.

According to their website, www.honorair.com, HonorAir “provides local veterans with escorted trips to the World War II Memorial” in Washington, D.C., who may have not been able to visit because of physical or financial limitiations.

"Awesome" is not even a good word to describe the event. As we stood there beneath red, white and blue balloons tied together, creating an archway, the atmosphere became electric as the band started playing and the veterans came walking down the aisle. The air was filled with applause from everyone for these heroes.

There were men with the badge of honor from a big red lipstick kiss on their cheeks. Some of the fellows even had two or three and some on both cheeks. I overheard one veteran telling someone else that he did not know how he was going to explain the lipstick to his wife –– I believe she will understand. I am sure the lady planting the kisses had to reload from time to time to keep her lipstick fresh.

It was really something to see. Smiles were all over the veterans' faces as they passed by. Handshakes from everyone and grateful words of appreciation filled the air from all the people in the crowd. There were also some women veterans in the group.

It is really humbling to stand there among all the men and women who fought to keep our country free. It's an honor and a privilege to be among all these heroes –– just inspiring.

As I shook the hands of many veterans, it was hard to hold back the tears of thanks and gratitude. “Moving” is all I can say about the event –– simply moving.

As an American, I have to reflect on the great sacrifices these individuals made to serve our country and to possibly die for it. Brave men and women gave freely of themselves so that you and I might have the freedom we have today.

Mike Trentham is a Clinton, Tenn., resident who frequently writes sports-related columns for The Oak Ridger.