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Airmen surpass in blood, dollars, support into East Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Eddie Mannis, founder and chairman of Honor Air Knoxville, announces Honor Air Knoxville is now accepting applications from Vietnam Veterans who would like to be flown to Washington DC to see the war memorials at no cost. Mannis spoke with members of the Eastern Tennessee Military Affairs Council at the Red Cross office here May 7, 2015, during their monthly meeting.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith/Released)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Eddie Mannis, founder and chairman of Honor Air Knoxville, announces Honor Air Knoxville is now accepting applications from Vietnam Veterans who would like to be flown to Washington DC to see the war memorials at no cost. Mannis spoke with members of the Eastern Tennessee Military Affairs Council at the Red Cross office here May 7, 2015, during their monthly meeting. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith/Released)

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- If you ask about the military, there is a good chance someone from East Tennessee will know of an Airman.

When combined, the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center's student and staff volunteer hours here more than likely surpass most organizations across the Air National Guard, said its officials recently.

That is partly due to the hundreds of Air Force NCO academy and Airman leadership school students with the Paul H. Lankford Enlisted Professional Military Center who volunteered in the community.

The students in the last four graduating classes, just this fiscal year, volunteered more than 1,800 hours at shelters, in Habitat for Humanity, with Boys and Girls Clubs, and for events, among other local causes. It's more than 6,000 hours in the last year.

With the patriotic season - Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day - at hand, Col. Jessica Meyeraan, commander, and Lt. Col. David Meece, deputy commander, and other staff discussed the TEC's efforts to increase military support and awareness by working with the Eastern Tennessee Military Affairs Council.

"Our participation allows us to pass on opportunities to our Airmen to work with the community though volunteerism and events as well as foster an understanding and support of the TEC," said Meece.

Last month, Tech. Sgt. J. Michael Laws, an instructor, and 14 others on staff jumped on a bus and headed north to Mountain Home, Tennessee, to visit veterans at the medical center. They brought with them nearly $2,000 worth of donated items for the vets' personal needs and recreation.

"We just went and talked and told them how much we appreciated them," said Laws. "Unlike us, their service is done, and they don't get a lot of thank yous."

Students and staff also donated through the Medic Regional Blood Center, maybe more blood than any other single organization - on average 100 pints for every class's blood drive.

Moreover, just this week, staff members were recognized at a special dinner for their work during last year's national Medal of Honor convention. Other staff headed into the Smoky Mountains to support the Mountain Man Memorial March that supports gold star families.

Meece said that it's reasonable to believe that all of their good work in communities like Maryville, Alcoa and Knoxville help shape a positive opinion about the Air Force.

In 2013, the app Foursquare rated Knoxville, Tennessee, as the most patriotic city in the nation through an analysis of its social media activity. It is not a far stretch then to guess that patriotism generates ways for service members to get involved.

The TEC is among 19 military units that meet downtown in a monthly ETMAC forum with the area's veterans groups, nonprofits and military friendly organizations.

"There's many patriotic organizations within the community, so ETMAC helps us make those connections in, not only volunteer opportunities, but to know the people behind them and realize how far these programs go," said Senior Master Sgt. Marcy Broadway, first sergeant.

Broadway said that the council also connects the area's military leaders. That's because East Tennessee does not have a large, active duty base, but rather smaller National Guard and Reserve units.

"Just going to a meeting is a huge connection piece for the area's services," said Broadway.

ETMAC's 2014 military report shows that those units in a 50-mile radius ranked fourth in economic impact to the region compared to all other industry and businesses.

Finance officials tallied TEC's impact, which is just short of $54 million for fiscal year 2014. That figure includes an estimated 424 indirect jobs created because of TEC's operations.

Taking raw numbers and calculating in indirect local spending helps leaders understand the local economy, said officials.

But dollars aside, if you still wondered about the impact of an Airman's simple handshake with someone downtown, ETMAC's report gives the following statement: "Military people know the meaning of service: They get involved."