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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

‘Honor Flight’ Documentary about World War II Veterans Landing at ODU for Free Screening

Veterans of World War II are dying at a rate of about 1,000 each day.

A network of Honor Flight volunteers has taken that sobering fact and made it their mission to transport as many of the remaining veterans as possible on pilgrimages to the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., which honors their service and sacrifices.

"Honor Flight: One Last Mission" documents some of those accounts as volunteers race against time to fly thousands of vets, in their late 80s and early 90s, to see the memorial.

The feature-length documentary will stop at Old Dominion University on March 28 for a showing at 7 p.m. in the ODU University Theatre, on Hampton Boulevard. It is free and open to the public.

"Honor Flight" tells the story of four WWII veterans and the volunteers who shuttle thousands of others to visit the memorial on a 24-hour journey that is the trip of a lifetime for many of the participants. The film chronicles the efforts of veterans Joe Demler and Harvey Kurz to raise money and promote the Honor Flight program. Demler, a retired postmaster, was famously pictured as "the human skeleton" in an iconic Life magazine photo taken upon his liberation from a prisoner of war camp. Kurz, who now bags groceries at a Pick 'n Save store, saw the American flag raised at the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The film earned the Guinness World Record for largest film screening when 28,442 people gathered at Miller Park (home of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team) late last summer to see the world premiere.

"Honor Flight" is being brought to ODU in partnership with the university's master's program in Lifespan and Digital Communication. The screening is being held to raise community awareness of a Hampton Roads-based chapter's efforts to recruit veterans for WWII Memorial trips.

This June, Honor Flight Historic Triangle Virginia will lead its ninth trip since 2009 to the memorial. Much like the movie, the local group is racing to recruit veterans and taking up to 100 at a time on the trips. However, unlike the national chapter, the Hampton Roads group also includes Korean War veterans on the excursions.

In all, 712 WWII and Korean War veterans have been escorted to the memorial since the group's inception, said Matthew Hartman, of Honor Flight Historic Triangle Virginia.

"The movie has done a lot to help raise awareness," he said. "These are the guys who blazed a path for those of us who followed."

Hartman said some veterans had to be convinced to visit the memorial because they were nervous about dredging up a painful past.

"Some of these vets carried back pretty horrendous memories," he said. "We've found the trip is very therapeutic. Our goal is to get as many vets as we can who haven't seen the memorial."

To view a movie trailer for "Honor Flight: One last Mission," go to www.honorflightthemovie.com.

For more information about Honor Flight Historic Triangle Virginia, go to www.honorflightva.org.

Additional information about the ODU screening is available by emailing tsocha@odu.edu or calling 683-3828.

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