Heartfelt Experience for Employee
The opportunity to accompany World War II veterans on a visit to the Washington D.C. memorial built in their honor was one Pamela Kallio of Oak Ridge jumped into with whole-hearted enthusiasm.
“I guess you can say it pulls at my heartstrings,” said Kallio, who has strong ties to U.S. Armed Services. Kallio was born in Washington D.C. where her father was a physician with Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Her oldest son returned last spring from his second tour of duty in Iraq as a helicopter pilot. Her son-in-law will deploy next spring to Iraq or Afghanistan as part of his local National Guard unit service.
Kallio represented Covenant Health on the Oct. 17 HonorAir Knoxville flight which took more than 200 people on a whirlwind, one-day tour of the nation’s capital and war memorials. Kallio is a speech pathologist at Methodist Medical Center and recent recipient of the Covenant Everest Award, which recognizes employees for making a positive difference in the quality of patient care and service.
“It was an honor to serve these men,” said Kallio, adding it was also a moving experience for others who served as guardians, providing assistance to the veterans as needed. “There were many times tears were in our eyes. The men were so humble."
Health President and CEO Tony Spezia and employee Pam Kallio with World
War II veterans who attended the October 17, 2009 HonorAir Knoxville
flight. From left to right: Spezia, Sparkman, Burgin, Kallio and Champion.
Kallio said the veterans were surprised by the honor guard saluting them at departure and often overwhelmed by the flag-waving, cheering crowds that turned out to welcome them upon landing at the nation’s capital as well as McGhee Tyson Airport for the return home. "The men would ask, 'is this for us?'"
Kallio escorted three veterans: J Burgin of Knoxville who served as US Army radio operator, Noel Champion of Knoxville, US Navy radio technician, and Jesse Sparkman of Athens, US Army infantry foot soldier. Danny Edsell, president of Covenant Health's Fortress Corporation, also served as a guardian on the Oct. 17 flight, and Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center’s William Fry, M.D., volunteered to serve as trip physician.
For Kallio and the others, it was a heartwarming experience and a unique opportunity to thank the veterans for their service to the country. HonorAir honors veterans by giving them the special experience of viewing the relatively new WW II Memorial for the first time. HonorAir Knoxville is presented by Prestige Cleaners in partnership with the Rotary Foundation of Knoxville and sponsored by Covenant Health and Home Federal Bank of Tennessee.
HonorAir provides an opportunity for veterans who, because of physical or financial limitations, might otherwise never see the memorial, which was dedicated in 2004. HonorAir Knoxville's goal is to fly as many East Tennessee WW II veterans as possible to Washington D.C. to see the memorial. There is a narrow window of opportunity to accomplish this task. According to the Department of Veterans Affair, every day the country loses about 1,200 WWII veterans. In another five to ten years almost all WWII veterans will be gone. For more information, visit http://www.honorairknoxville.com