World War II veterans will be honored on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day— Dec. 7—with a daylong celebration of their service, beginning with a trip down the National Mall to their memorial and culminating in a screening of the documentary film “Honor Flight” at DAR Constitution Hall. The event is sponsored by Blue Star Families and the USO.
Several veterans featured in the documentary will be in attendance, including Joe Demler of Wisconsin, a Battle of the Bulge infantryman and prisoner of war in Germany. America remembers Demler as the “Human Skeleton” in a 1945 Life magazine photo taken the day he was freed from a prisoner-of-war camp. Also attending is retired Navy Cmdr. Verner Utke-Ramsing of Washington, D.C., who was aboard the USS Drum in May of 1942 when it sunk a Japanese seaplane carrier off the island of Hushu with one torpedo hit. Without the sinking, there may have been an additional 10 Japanese submarines at Midway. As these heroes look into the twilight of their lives, now is the time to honor them.
“The number of WWII veterans is quickly dwindling, with 800 to 1,000 dying every day,” said Honor Flight Founder Earl Morse. “Honor Flight’s mission is to give these remarkable veterans the recognition they deserve: a plane flight to visit the memorials dedicated in their honor and a hero’s welcome when they return to their communities. For many, it is the trip of a lifetime.”
Washington, D.C.-area veterans who do not qualify for an Honor Flight trip due to their proximity to the memorial will be the focus of the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day event. After attending a wreath- laying ceremony at the WWII Memorial, veterans will be honored guests at a screening of “Honor Flight” at DAR. The powerful, feature-length documentary follows a devoted team of Midwest volunteers from the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight Wisconsin chapter as they strive to send every local WWII veteran to Washington to see the memorial erected in their honor.
In addition to Demler, the film depicts veterans such as 86-year-old grocery bagger Harvey Kurtz, who witnessed the iconic raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima. Many veterans kept the atrocities of war to themselves after returning home, never revealing their experiences to spouses, children, friends or even fellow veterans. The film documents their emotional reflections of war as they visit the memorial, surrounded by their brothers and sisters in arms.
“‘Honor Flight’ is a remarkable film. Grandparents, parents and children can all appreciate the stories told in this powerful and moving tribute to WWII veterans and this country,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Dole.
The documentary has been garnering attention around the country, including a showing attended by 28,000 people at Miller Park Stadium in Wisconsin.
More from the USO
Jun 25, 2017
19 Photos to Remember the Korean War 67 Years After it Erupted
All too often, the Korean War -- and the veterans who fought in it -- get lost in the shuffle, but the USO wants to make sure the conflict wedged between World War II and Vietnam gets the attention that it deserves, especially on the day it began 67 years ago.
Jun 20, 2017
USO Pathfinder Helps Transitioning Military Members Chart New Course
Since 1941, the USO has strengthened military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their military service. Its introduction of USO Pathfinder is its latest extension of that commitment to the American military family.
Jun 20, 2017
USO Yokosuka Pivots to Provide Military Families with 24-Hour Support After USS Fitzgerald Crash
When the USO Yokosuka staff first heard about the early-morning USS Fitzgerald crash on June 17 they didn’t know what type of support they would be asked to provide. Nonetheless, they and their volunteers were ready for the call.