(This review originally appeared at Reel Film News on November 20, 2012.)
(Author’s note: this is not a typical movie review, as Honor Flight is not your typical movie. It’s more of an observation rather than anything else. I thank you in advance for reading.)
The Greatest Generation.
Men and women who survived the Great Depression, only to be conscripted into service for the hardest-fought battle our military has ever faced – World War II. From many accounts, when they came home, there was no tickertape parade, no celebrations for their return; they just went back to work, started families, and went about living their lives. Some never talked about their experiences, even with their families or other fellow servicemen. Only in 2004 was a monument and memorial even put up for the fallen soldiers from this war. The window is fast closing for the time to honor these fantastic men and women; statistics are showing that an average of 900 WWII veterans die per day. In an effort to give them a day they won’t forget and to let them know that the country appreciates what they have done, people have started organizing Honor Flights – a one-day trip to Washington, D.C., where they go to the WWII Memorial, along with the other war memorials and Arlington National Cemetery. The documentary Honor Flight follows a group of veterans from Wisconsin as they partake in one of the greatest days of their life.
Honor Flight starts as documentaries sometimes do – with one man finding a purpose. Joe Dean, whose father told him stories about his experiences in WWII, hears a story about Honor Flights on the radio. As a result of this, he starts a grassroots campaign to raise funds to bring the remaining WWII veterans from Wisconsin to Washington, D.C.; he is soon overwhelmed with support coming in from donators, volunteers, and other means of help. We meet several of the veterans; most are hale and hearty, but time is running out for most of them, as advancing age or illness are creeping up on them. Soon, within our lifetime, the last WWII veteran will be gone, and their stories will be no more. In an effort to get both the veterans and their stories out there, Dean and others like him are flying WWII veterans out to D.C. through the kindness of strangers.
What’s really affecting is how much love and support are being given to these men from all quarters of the state. We see how easily red tape and bureaucracy are quickly cut through in order to do this for men and women who served their country and never even got the homecoming welcome they so richly deserved. The veterans are finally given their due, and Honor Flight captures it all. The stories, the laughter, the tears, and the shows of support are all caught on film, if only to show that the world is not such a cynical place, and that support and hope can come from the last sources you’d expect. One veteran says during the course of the proceedings, “Up until today… I didn’t know my family still loved me.” It’s in these waning days that this kind of appreciation truly counts, and it seems that the country is only too happy to give it to them.
For those of you who live in or around Washington, D.C., Honor Flight will be playing at the following venues on these dates:
– November 27 at the National Press Club
– December 4 at the Capitol Building
– December 7 (Pearl Harbor Day) at DAR Constitution Hall
Please go to HonorFlightTheMovie.com for information on attending these screenings or for more information about Honor Flights around the country.
Reel Film News Movie Essay by Eddie Pasa