A medic and a soldier become "fast friends" on an HonorAir flight to Washington. The health scare that brought them close and the recovery that brought them even closer.
In reporting our series about East Tennessee veterans, we’ve heard many stories about deep friendships formed during moments of crisis, and that holds true for one soldier and a medic. But their bond wasn’t forged at war.
In a first for HonorAir Knoxville in 15 trips, one of the veterans on the all expenses paid journey to Washington D.C. made the outbound flight but failed to make the return plane that afternoon.
On October 9th Korean War veteran Charlie Denyer bumped his leg on the outbound portion of the trip to Washington. While many people in the same situation might just have suffered a bruise, Mr. Denyer saw the wound grow into a painful and serious threat. The 80-year-old former Army man takes blood thinners and his blood started to pool around the wound. At first Mr. Denyer tried to "tough it out" but after several hours on the tour and by the bus stop at the Tomb of the Unknowns, his leg wound had split. Blood started to run into his shoe and the team of paramedics with the group jumped into action.
"He was such a trooper. When someone starts to not respond so well then that's the next level. He hadn't gotten to that point, (but) he had lost a lot of blood," said Matt Owens, who is a veteran Lifestar paramedic and regular escort on the HonorAir Knoxville trips to Washington.
Mr. Owens and the other medical experts on the trip made the call to move Mr. Denyer to the hospital. Together, Mr. Owens and Mr. Denyer headed in an ambulance to the emergency room while the rest of the HonorAir group headed home to Knoxville.
"I mean fear was all over me, but when Matt began to call me I knew that he was in good hands," said Mr. Denyer's wife Linda. She started receiving regular updates about the condition of her husband. And those calls home were the only time the paramedic left his patient.
"I heard a nurse come in and say, (to Mr. Owens) 'we have a lounge around here, better arrangements for you to sleep in.' He said 'no, I'll stay right here,'" said Mr. Denyer recalling how his new "fast friend" slept by his side.
"We spent a lot of quality time together in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit)," recalled Mr. Owens.
By the next morning Mr. Denyer's condition improved enough to head home. HonorAir Knoxville founder Eddie Mannis chartered a plane to ensure Mr. Denyer and Mr. Owens made it back in short order.
Their friendship was formed in a little more than 36 hours, but Mr. Denyer calls Mr. Owens "a brother," and his wife expressed a similar feeling toward their new family friend.
"He'll always be very special to our hearts. He's like a new son," said Mrs. Denyer.