(WBIR) A veteran who missed out on the experience of a lifetime will get the chance to cherish the moment again.
Korean War veteran Charlie Denyer was injured during the last HonorAir trip to our nation's capitol and was forced to spend the night in a Washington D.C. hospital. Due to his injury, he missed out on one of the biggest highlights of the trip - the homecoming celebration in Knoxville. But Charlie made most of his situation and formed a close bond with his medic, Matt Owens, who stayed by his side the entire time.
HonorAir provides an all expense-paid journey for veterans to see memorials built in their honor, but neither Charlie nor Matt would make the return flight home that afternoon.
On the plane ride to D.C., Charlie bumped his leg. For most of us, the bump would have merely caused a bruise, but for Charlie, the injury started collecting blood. The spot grew painful and over a few hours became a serious threat for this 80-year-old veteran taking blood thinners.
He tried to tough it out for most of the day, determined to stick with the group. But by the final bus stop at the Tomb of the Unknowns, his leg wound took a turn for the worse. When it split open, Matt and the other medical staff jumped into action as blood starting filling Charlie's shoe.
"Thanks to Matt. . . I didn't leave it all right there on that bus. He got me buttoned up. . . I don't know how they did it," said Charlie.
While the rest of the group headed home to a hero's welcome in Knoxville, Charlie and Matt headed to a D.C. hospital. Together they moved from the emergency room, to surgery, and then to the intensive care unit.
Matt slept by Charlie's side in the hospital. Even when a nurse asked Matt whether he wanted better sleeping arrangements, the faithful medic stayed right next to Charlie.
He only left Charlie's side to arrange a travel plans home and reassure Charlie's wife Linda.
HonorAir founder Eddie Mannis chartered a private plane to get Matt and Charlie back to Knoxville.
"Some might say you get stuck overnight in D.C. then you drew the short straw," said Charlie. "I actually drew the blessing."
In a little more than 36 hours, a soldier and a medic forged a friendship for life.
Still it wasn't an easy recovery for Charlie. He has spent time in and out of the hospital since his trip to D.C. in early October. He had always hoped he'd be leaving on the HonorAir trip, and Wednesday his wish came true.