The United States’ involvement in World War II ran from December 7, 1941 to August 15, 1945 with the surrender of Japan. The war started nearly 71 years ago, which means that the men and women that served during that time are now in the late 80s and older.
My dad, joined the U.S. Navy straight out of high school in 1940 at the age of 18. He served 6 years until 1946. He will be 91 this October. I recently had the opportunity to visit with him and he talked a little about the war. One of the things that hit me hard was when he said that virtually everyone he knew then has died and he felt so alone in that aspect.
In April of 2004, the National World War II Memorial was opened in Washington D.C. by then, most WWII veterans were already up in years. In 2005, a group that became known as Honor Flight, managed to raise enough money to send small planes carrying WWII veterans to Washington D.C. to see the memorial that was dedicated to them. It was an emotional time for them and many were brought to tears as the memories of lost friends and the horrors of the war overwhelmed them.
As word got out about the Honor Flight program, more and more WWII veterans applied for the free trip and by August of 2005, the program had to use commercial airlines because the small planes couldn’t carry them all. Funded entirely by donations, Honor Flight took almost 900 WWII veterans from across the country to the memorial by the end of 2006. By the end of 2011, the number of vets to make the trip totals more than 81,000 and they are still going strong.
A documentary film has now been produced that follows a number of the veterans on their journey to the World War II Memorial. The film is titled The Story of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.
The film just had its premiere showing at Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers and set a Guinness world record for attendance at a film premiere. The previous record holder was an audience of 27,022 in Brazil, set in 2010. An official representative of the Guinness organization was on hand to verify that the crowd at Miller Park totaled 28, 442 that came to see a documentary.
The reports from the ball park that night said that there were very few dry eyes in the crowd as the documentary interviewed veteran after veteran. Film producer Clay Broga commented about the premiere saying:
“We’ve always had big ambitions for the film, but none of us could fathom the scale and emotion that we experienced at its premiere. Honor Flight has the power to change people’s lives. I know that because I was surrounded by over 28,000 people — old and young, men and women — moved to tears by what they were watching.”
“Our goal now is to create that same transformational experience for as many people as possible.”
If you are as interested in seeing this documentary as I am, you may have to wait just a little longer. According to the report in The Daily Caller:
“The filmmakers add that they are in negotiations to bring the film to the masses via DVD, Video on Demand and Download to Own. They are also looking at ways to replicate the premiere and perhaps make a run at an Academy Award.”
I wish I could get my dad on one of their trips, but his health will not allow it. The once proud and strong veteran is being ravaged by age and injuries suffered in an auto accident long ago. However, I intend on watching for the release of the film on DVD or other media form and do will my best to get a copy to him to see. According to the Honor Flight website, between 900 to 1,000 World War II veterans die every day. It won’t be much longer before none of them will be left alive.
If any of you have a loved one that was a veteran of World War II, I urge you check Honor Flight out and see if they can help get that loved one to Washington D.C. to see their memorial before it’s too late. It just may be the present you could give them and yourself.