It took courage to serve in Vietnam.
It also took courage to visit the memorial that holds the names of friends killed in battle.
A plane load of Vietnam veterans spent all day Wednesday in Washington, DC, thanks to donations from people across East Tennessee. It was the first local Honor Air flight made up completely of veterans of that conflict.
One of the men on board was Bob Hyatt. He was 19 when he enlisted in Army.
His emotiions started to well before the plane even left Knoxville.
"I plan to cry a lot. It's just going to be one of those great days," he said.
He's now 69 and shared the trip with 149 Vietnam veterans, many making their first journey to see the memorials in our nation's capitol.
Vietnam veterans visit memorial that honors fallen friends
The Vietnam Memorial wall holds the names of more than 58,000 Americans killed in Vietnam. There are more than 1,200 from Tennessee.
The rubbing of pencil to paper, and the whisper of war buddies lost in a far off jungle fill the grounds of the memorial.
Walking up to it wasn't easy. Looking for the names of those that had been left behind was even harder.
Hyatt was looking for more the names of more than a dozen friends.
He wasn't alone.
"I got to lay my hands on one of my buddies and say goodbye to him..which I didn't get to so this...meant a lot to me," said David Hodson.
Hodson, a Marine, has been here six times before. This was the first time he could actually bring himself to touch the wall. He said he drew strength from his brothers around him to make the move.
Gary Koontz knew five names on the wall.
Ronald Mayes was struck by horrible memories.
"When men die, they cry two things. "Oh, God help me' and 'Momma.' I can hear their screams," said Mayes.
When it's time to leave these hallowed ground, there were signs of healing and the promise of a memorable homecoming.
On their way home from the flight overseas, many Vietnam veterans, including men on this trip, stripped their uniforms off and left them in the restroom at the airport. Their officers had warned them to blend back into civilian life and keep quiet about their military service.
That wasn't the case for this homecoming. The community answered the call, offering these veterans of Vietnam a show of thanks like they'd never seen before, filling McGhee Tyson Airport with cheers, flags, and appreciation.