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Honoring WWII veterans

‘Honor Flight’ film screened at AMC South Barrington

Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 11:14 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 12:22 p.m. CDT
(Photo provided)
John Kligis, a Navy veteran, and Henry Behrens, a U.S. Army veteran, both went on Illinois Honor Flights in 2010. They are among the thousands of World War II veterans who have visited the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. the past few years.

SOUTH BARRINGTON – See the documentary “Honor Flight,” and you’ll understand why all World War II veterans should be given the trip of a lifetime, say those involved with the project.

The film depicts the stories of four Midwestern veterans and the volunteer efforts to bring them to Washington D.C. to see the memorial constructed for them in 2004.

Shown at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at AMC South Barrington, a portion of the $10 ticket costs will benefit McHenry Honor Flight.

The group has brought 26 area veterans to Washington D.C. since its formation in 2010.

With World War II vets dying at about 1,000 a day, time is of the essence, say those involved.

And it is their hope that the film, which officially releases nationwide on Memorial Day, raises awareness of both their efforts and the need for help and donations.

“I can tell you if they knew nothing about anything else and they walk out of that movie, they will be moved, definitely moved,” said Randy Granath, a Vietnam veteran and president of the Veterans Network of Northern Illinois.

Granath saw the film at a special showing in Washington D.C. and at its premiere in August of last year at Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers.

With 28,442 people at the premiere, the film set the Guinness World Record for largest attendance at a film screening.

It since has been screened in roughly 60 places throughout the country, said Jo Jensen of Freethink Media, the production company behind the film. The company has paired with 119 groups in a nationwide Honor Flight Network to show the film in their areas.

“We wanted to do something non-traditional with the release,” Jensen said. “What we’ve done is empowered them to bring the film to their communities either in a local movie theater or to a high school in that area before anyone else.”

Upon its full release on Memorial Day, the film will be available on iTunes and Video On Demand and elsewhere, and DVDS of the film will be for sale, she said.

Freethink, created by the filmmakers Dan Hayes and Clay Broga, first released a trailer of “Honor Flight” in 2011.

In a few weeks, it had received roughly 4.5 million online views, almost entirely generated through Facebook. Unprompted, viewers donated about $13,000 from the power of the trailer alone.

The filmmakers had spent more than two years filming two dozen interviews and multiple Honor Flight trips from Milwaukee to Washington, D.C. and back. One of the film’s main characters died during production, while a female veteran died just days before Freethink could film her.

As part of their “honor flights,” the veterans are taken on 24-hour journeys and often greeted with cheering audiences.

For many of them, most in their late 80s and 90s, it is the last trip they take and perhaps the first time they’ve been formally thanked for their efforts.

Roughly 2.5 million World War II veterans are still living today, Granath said. Projections show that within four years, most likely will be gone, he said.

Granath said he hopes to negotiate another release of the film, likely at a McHenry County theater in May.

“Veterans never get the credit they should,” he said. “We’re trying to honor the guys and bring awareness to the public to let them know you should be patriotic.”

An Honor Flight volunteer, Steve Schwertfeger was invited to see the film in Washington D.C. and since has worked to publicize it

“You just watch the whole movie and everything comes together, and it’s really special,” he said.

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