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April 13, 2013 | posted in Filmmakers
Dan Hayes was working as a video producer in Washington, DC, when his father told him about something that would change his life. A group of World War II veterans had been brought in from Milwaukee, by a group called Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, to view the memorial dedicated to them.
“I grabbed my camera and went to the memorial,” he says. “I asked the first veteran I saw how his day was going, and he told me that he ‘could die a happy man now that he had made the trip to DC.’”
As the extraordinary stories of the veterans pulled him deeper into their world, he knew he’d found something remarkable that had to be shared with the public. After making a five-minute short film about the subject, he and his business partner, Clay Broga, quit their day jobs to devote their full attention to a feature.
Soon they had more amazing stories than could possibly be accommodated in the film. It was painful to choose what would stay in and what to cut.
“One of our featured veterans, Orville Lemke, is a pen-maker,” Hayes recalls. “He made a very special pen for one of the volunteers that made his flight possible, Steve Deutsch. Steve’s wife had cancer, and Orville made a beautiful pen with pink ribbons for her as a sign of solidarity, because Orville was suffering from cancer as well. It was such a powerful story that demonstrates just how meaningful Honor Flight’s work is to all the people involved.”
The response to the film has demonstrated this as well, setting a new Guinness record for the largest attendance at a film screening when 28,000 people attended the premiere at Milwaukee’s Miller Park.
“It was very special to create an atmosphere of tens of thousands of people joining together to celebrate these veterans, honor their legacy and watch the film,” Hayes says.
The Honor Flight Network is continuing its remarkable program, planning a Memorial Day screening of the film that will take place in over a hundred communities around the nation.
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