It has almost been seventy years since the end of World War II, but at least according to the upcoming documentary “Honor Flight,” it’s never too late to say thank you.
Directed by Dan Hayes, the poignant film chronicles a Midwest community racing against the clock to fly thousands of veterans to Washington, DC to see the memorial constructed for them in 2004, decades after their epic battle. In particular, “Honor Flight” highlights four former servicemen: Stars and Stripes Honor Flight Ambassador Joe Demler, Orville Lemke who fights to hold off terminal cancer to make the trip, 89-year-old poet Julian Plaster and Harvey Kurtz, who saw the iconic flag go up at Iwo Jima.
“It was important to make this film to educate Americans on the amazing lives of the greatest generation and create awareness for the efforts of the Honor Flight Network non-profit, which flies veterans to see the memorial built in their honor,” director Hayes told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “These ‘Honor Flights’ are 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.”
And for veteran Demler, it was one of the best – albeit emotional – days of his life.
“It did bring back a lot of memories, but sharing our experiences with our fellow veterans and seeing the Word War II Memorial with them was wonderful. Some of them had never talked about their war experiences before being on the Honor Flight,” he said. “But the sad part is, so many veterans never got to see their Memorial or experience the Honor Flight, many passed before it was built. But for those of us who did, we see it as better late than never.”
Hayes also stressed the importance of exposing younger generations to the plight of our servicemen all those years ago.
“Making this movie changed our lives. We’re in our late twenties and early thirties and, like almost everyone in our generation, take a lot for granted,” he continued. “After hearing their stories, things were put into perspective for us. We can never thank them enough for what they did for our country, but we can try.”
Ahead of Memorial Day, the documentary will be available on video on demand via SnagFilms, and the filmmaking force is challenging all Americans to really show their graciousness.
“Not everyone can go on an Honor Flight, so we’re bringing it to them. Through social media and the film, we can show these living heroes, one last time, just how grateful we are for the freedom and opportunity they’ve left us,” Hayes added. “Last Memorial Day we asked people for 50,000 views on the film’s trailer to show vets support. They responded with 4.5 million. Last summer the film’s premiere broke the Guinness World Record for the largest audience at a film screening in history. The world record was broken in honor of our World War II veterans and their legacy. On May 14 the film will be available on video on demand, iTunes and Amazon… The only way we can bring honor to the lives of our vets is through our own.”