A scene from "Honor Flight." (Handout )
The enormously moving documentary "Honor Flight" proves a deft snapshot of a worthy nonprofit group as well as a profound tribute to America's brave, often unsung World War II veterans.
Director Dan Hayes spotlights the Milwaukee-based Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, one of 117 volunteer hubs across the U.S. that raises money to fly WWII vets to Washington, D.C., to visit the National World War II Memorial. Since roughly 900 WWII vets reportedly die each day, the clock is ticking for these elderly ex-soldiers for whom this special trip may well be their last.
Hayes follows the creation and mushrooming of this southeast Wisconsin chapter headed by local IBM executive Joe Dean, whose late father fought in World War II but, like so many of the Greatest Generation, rarely discussed it.
In addition to covering an actual Honor Flight excursion, which includes stirring stops at various D.C. war memorials plus a rousing airport reception upon the veterans' return, the filmmaker offers intimate portraits of Wisconsin WWII vets and Honor Flight participants Harvey Kurz, who served on Iwo Jima; famed ex-POW Joe Demler; former military cook and gravedigger Julian Plaster; and terminal cancer patient Orville Lemke.
They all share their amazing war stories and life memories with great humility and warmth.
Vivid archival footage rounds out this uplifting portrait.
"Honor Flight." MPAA rating: PG for emotional thematic elements, some war-related disturbing images, brief smoking and mild language. Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes. At Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.