Honor Flight is a heartwarming documentary about four living World War II veterans and a Midwest community coming together to give them the trip of a lifetime. Volunteers race against the clock to fly thousands of WWII veterans to Washington, DC to see the memorial constructed for them in 2004, nearly 60 years after their epic struggle.
The trips are called “Honor Flights” and for the veterans, who are in their late 80s and early 90s, it’s often the first time they’ve been thanked and the last trip of their lives. The 24-hour journey is full of surprises that deeply move all who are involved. It’s uncommon for World War II veterans to talk about the War, but the Honor Flight experience brings their stories out. Many veterans say, with the exception of their wedding day and the birth of their children, the trip is the best day of their life.
However, success is all but ensured. 1,000 World War II veterans die every day and getting them on an Honor Flight in time is a constant battle. The film features Orville Lemke, a former plumber and beloved father of nine who fights to hold off terminal cancer so he can make the trip, and Julian Plaster, an 89-year-old poet who has survived almost all of his friends and family.
Honor Flight also chronicles the stories of veterans Joe Demler and Harvey Kurz. They raise money for and promote the Honor Flight program to help fly as many of their fellow veterans as possible. Joe, a soft-spoken retired postmaster, was famously pictured in Life magazine as “the Human Skeleton” upon his liberation from a German POW camp. Days from death, he weighed just 70 lbs. His comedic sidekick, Harvey, saw the iconic flag go up at the Battle of Iwo Jima, unbeknownst to the shoppers he bags groceries for at the local Pick n’ Save.
As the Honor Flight trip unfolds, Orville, Julian, Joe, Harvey and others share their stories and wisdom. While the Honor Flight program is meant to give something back to these humble heroes, the sheer goodness they embody and their profound appreciation for life in freedom, transforms the lives of everyone they meet.
About the Cause
The Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization that has flown over 100,000 veterans to Washington, DC. It consists of 117 hubs across the country. If you’d like to get involved or donate to the cause, please visit www.honorflight.org.
The Stars and Stripes Honor Flight is the Milwaukee-based Honor Flight hub featured in the film. Learn more about them at www.starsandstripeshonorflight.org.
Helping fly veterans on Honor Flights is one way to get involved, capturing vets’ stories is another. Through its Veterans History Project, the Library of Congress has collected and preserved over 80,000 personal accounts of American war veterans. Learn more about the project at www.loc.gov/vets.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Dan Hayes (Director) and Clay Broga (Producer)
In late 2010, Dan Hayes and Clay Broga created Freethink Media, a production company devoted to telling stories about freedom, human well-being and achievement. While making Honor Flight, Hayes, Broga and their team of talented artists and communicators have built a successful for-client business. They’ve produced dozens of short web-based films and served as a creative agency for nonprofit and corporate brands. Their work has been featured on major networks such as NBC and FOX and popular shows including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. Fast Company magazine praised Freethink’s stylistic approach and innovation for work they did in 2011.
Hayes and Broga are occasional blog contributors for The Huffington Post’s entertainment section. Previously, Hayes was a producer for online video channel ReasonTV, and Broga was a writer, video producer and marketing specialist for various nonprofits.