Photo courtesy of Freethink Media. Joe Demler, 84, holds a photo of himself as “The Human Skeleton” taken shortly after his liberation from a German POW camp in 1945.
The sound of a bomb is unforgettable. Spending any time as a prisoner of war and coming home in one piece, defies statistics. Losing a limb, seeing a friend die or maimed on the battlefield leaves emotional scars and images beyond the average person’s comprehension. War is hell. Whether you’re a veteran or the spouse of a veteran who has survived or served in any war, you know how quickly the oath and promise to serve evolves to a matter of life and death.
Photo courtesy of Visual Image Photography. Julian Plaster, 89, stands in deep thought at the main attraction of his Honor Flight trip, the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.
In “Honor Flight,” an engaging and compelling documentary, Joe Demler, Harvey Kurz, Julian Plaster, and Orville Lemke four of the nearly one million World War II living veterans pull viewers into their personal, emotional and healing journey from Wisconsin to Washington, D.C. The flight and experience offer the men a once in a lifetime chance to see the memorial that stands as a national salute to veterans, commonly referred to as the Greatest Generation. “This is a film about a community coming together to see a memorial but more like a meditation on freedom,” says executive producer, Kmele Foster.
The documentary is the result of a chance encounter in 2009, when Dan Hayes, the film’s director, visited the WWII memorial. Hayes took a camera and started asking questions. The answer from one veteran was piercing. “I asked about his day and he said, ‘I could die a happy man, now that I’ve made this trip,’ ” says Hayes.Hayes followed and interviewed the veteran the rest of the day. Made a short video, posted it online and you can guess what happened next. Emails and phone calls from people and non-profits quickly moved the five-minute impromptu short documentary to more than 250 hours of footage. “We’re surprised at how personally people seem to connect. Every time we screen the film people come up and see their family, relatives in our characters and are inspired to follow-up with their own project,” says Hayes.
Photo courtesy of Freethink Media. A military official presides over a traditional military funeral for a World War II veteran. As part of the ceremony, the American flag is removed from the casket, folded and delivered to the deceased veteran’s family.
At the core of the film, you find out why the men were so eager to join and fight in the war. You see the stark difference in their return home, compared to today’s veterans, and you feel the raw pride that still overwhelms each man, as he realizes the time has finally come to publicly say I served, I survived and I still stand tall. Statistics give you the knowledge of the film’s urgency and relevance. Reportedly, WWII veterans are dying at a rate of 600 per day. During the war, from 1939 to 1945, nearly 60 million people lost their lives.
Photo Courtesy of Freethink Media. Orville Lemke, a World War II veteran battling terminal cancer, is greeted by a young boy at a surprise parade toward the end of his Honor Flight trip.
“Honor Flight” is one of several important films featuring stories about veterans, the challenges and reality military life before the current generation was likely born and is often overshadowed by current conflict. To see the “Honor Flight” trailer and leave a comment, visit http://www.honorflightthemovie.com/#. The film will also be released on VOD via Snagfilms on Tuesday, May 14th. The film is a debut of sorts for Freethink Media, as it's the production company's first feature length film.
“Honor Flight” joins an impressive line-up of films that will screen throughout Sunday at the sixth annual GI Film Festival in the Washington, D.C. area. “We are thrilled with all of the incredible success of the film,” says Foster. For a list of films, visit http://gifilmfestival.com/.Share your stories of military service. How do you feel about the way America thanks its veterans? You can e-mail Maniko Barthelemy directly at Newsheels@gmail.com or leave your comment on this page.