On April 12, Air Force veteran Don Mills joined more than 100 East Tennessee veterans on HonorAir Knoxville Flight 32 to Washington, D.C., to visit the war memorials.
Don, a resident at Morning Pointe of Hardin Valley in Knoxville, traveled with his son-in-law. The flight left at 9 a.m. from Tyson McGhee Airport and returned in the evening to a large welcome-home celebration. More than 130 veterans traveled on the flight to tour the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials.
“I liked all the different memorials – they are all very nice,” said Don.
But the Marines Memorial had special meaning for Don.
“I had six older brothers that were in the Marines,” Don shared. “They all served in the Pacific campaign. They all saw combat, but they all came home without being wounded. They all encouraged me not to go into the Marines, so I went into the Air National Guard [precursor to the Air Force].”
Don’s family and members of the Morning Pointe of Hardin Valley staff joined the throngs of supporters with signs and encouragement for him.
When Don enlisted, he already had his pilot’s license, which he earned at age 16. He wanted to be a cadet but didn’t pass the physical. However, there was plenty for him to do. He served as a mechanic and then as a flight engineer. At one point, he held a record for fastest solo flight, at three hours and 15 minutes.
During his Air Force career, Don was stationed in San Antonio and Wichita Falls, Texas, as well as Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama. He discharged from the Air Force after four years of service as a staff sergeant.
“We’re so glad Don was able to have this opportunity,” said Ben Stiefel, executive director at Morning Pointe of Hardin Valley. “We love to honor our veterans for everything they have done to protect and support our country. They truly deserve this special recognition, and I am so glad that Don had a good time on this trip!”
For more information, visit honorairknoxville.com.