An overflow crowd at the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial paid normal tribute to the flag by singing the Star Spangled Banner. However, the focus of Friday morning's ceremony was on a flag of powder blue that signaled the arrival of the 2014 Medal of Honor Convention.
"Today is the official kickoff that the [Medal of Honor] convention belongs to Knoxville. We've really dreamed about this day, that we would actually be able to receive the flag. We received it in Gettysburg a few months ago and now we're able to bring it home and raise it in Knoxville," said Chris Coyne, co-chair of the 2014 convention.
The Medal of Honor Convention brings together dozens of the nation's most distinguished veterans who have received the country's highest decoration for military valor. WBIR traveled to Gettysburg in September for the 2013 convention to see first-hand what Knoxville can expect in 2014. Just like in Gettysburg, communities in East Tennessee will be able to meet and learn from true heroes who share lessons of service and sacrifice on the battlefield and beyond.
"We'll have an opportunity to go and talk to the children and talk to the veterans," said Colonel Joe Marm, who earned the Medal of Honor for his role in a Vietnam battle made famous by the book We Were Soldiers Once... And Young and its movie adaptation We Were Soldiers. "Going and talking to people and wearing the Medal of Honor, it is kind of our way of paying back. We say we wear the medal for all the brave men and women that we served with and whose actions go unsung."
When the convention arrives in September 2014, recipients such as Marm say it is their goal to leave a lasting legacy in East Tennessee.
"Some recipients have said it's harder to wear the medal than to earn it, which means you have to set the example," said Marm.
The convention's organizers aim to set an example that will leave a lasting impression on the Medal of Honor recipients.
"What we want is when the Medal of Honor recipients look back 10 years from now, 20 years from now, the Knoxville Convention will be the greatest convention they ever had. And it all starts today," said Joe Thompson, co-chairman of the 2014 Medal of Honor Convention.
The Congressional Medal of Honor Society's flag will fly at the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial at World's Fair Park from now until the end of the convention in 2014. After Knoxville hosts the convention from September 10-13 in 2014, the flag will be passed to a delegation from the 2015 host-city of Boston, Massachusetts.