World War II Heroes Join in D.C. for Day of Honor

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 11.05.27 AMWorld 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.

For tickets to the Dec. 7 Washington, D.C., screening go to:

http://www.honorflight.org/lastingtribute/index.cfm

This Week’s Snag Film: In Their Footsteps: Lewis and Clark

The In Their Footsteps Team From Left : Harlan Opdahl of Triple “O” Outfitters, Tim Steinouer Associate Producer, Greg Jones Editor, Bob Weis Writer-Producer, Cameron Roberts Director of Photography. (Photo courtesy of http://www.lewisandclarkrediscovery.com)

The Lewis and Clark story is one of America’s great adventures. What better way to celebrate their story than to retrace the most difficult part of their journey? Smithsonian Curator Emeritus Dr. Herman J. Viola and documentary filmmaker Bob Weis did just that–leading twenty modern Americans on a grueling and spectacular 10-day horseback trek over the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho. The result is a stunning experience back into the American Landscape as the Corps of Discovery first saw it.

For history buffs, this is an exciting retelling of an American adventure. For adventure travelers, it is an exciting journey into some of the country’s most fragile and beautiful sites.

Filmed in remote areas only reachable by horseback, and in exclusive locations including inside Monticello, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian.

In Their Footsteps: Lewis and Clark is this week’s FREE online documentary from Snag Films.  You can watch, snag, and share any time you like!

This Week’s Snag Film: A Fighting Chance

Kyle Maynard has never let anything hold him back...

Kyle Maynard, a born quadruple amputee, who through a “No Excuses” life philosophy has become a nationally-ranked wrestler, strength record-holder, ESPY award-winner, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, best-selling author, and MMA fighter.

A Fighting Chance” is a vivid, character-driven story unlike any before it.  Not only has Maynard learned to live life independently and without prosthetics, in the film he plans to fight in an official Mixed Martial Arts match – a highly controversial and dangerous goal – the film brings us to ask the question: what is a disability?  Should there be regulations against MMA fighting when such high risk is involved? The film ends with the climactic fight that will change Kyle’s life forever.

Maynard’s story is remarkable, and we especially think you’ll be touched by his work with wounded warriors, whom he calls “these heroes of mine.”  Plus, keep an eye out for a cameo by the USO’s own Sloan Gibson!

Like all Snag Films, this documentary is available to view and share for free, online, at any time.  We hope you’ll share it with the ones you love…

This Week’s Snag Film: The Age of Stupid

Snag Films kicks off their SummerFest with The Age of Stupid, a film from Oscar-nominated actor Pete Postlethwaite (of The Lost World: Jurassic Park and The Usual Suspects fame) plays an old man living in the devastated world of 2055 in this documentary-drama-animation hybrid from Director Franny Armstrong and Oscar-winning Producer John Battsek.

“Runaway climate change has ravaged the planet by 2055. Pete plays the founder of The Global Archive, a storage facility located in the (now melted) Arctic, preserving all of humanity’s achievements in the hope that the planet might one day be habitable again. Pulling together clips of archive news and documentary from 1950-2008 to build a message showing what went wrong and why, Pete’s exploration surfaces compelling footage and complex issues facing us in our world today. He asks: Why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?”

And don’t forget that you can create a custom Snag Films theater widget any time you want!  We searched for the terms “military” and “soldiers” and found several fascinating documentaries, or type in “On Common Ground” or “Red, White, Black, and Blue” to get you started with some family-friendly fare.

You can always search for what interests you, and share these films whenever and wherever you like…

The Story – and the Soldiers – Behind Restrepo

We know that many of you experienced the documentary Restrepo at AFI SilverDocs and other special screenings.  Having already won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival this year, in addition to a host of other accolades, the film is continuing to open at more theaters across the country and we’re proud to help spread the word.   You can visit the official Facebook page for an updated theater schedule.

Today, we present an inside look into the work of the filmmakers, Sebastian Junger & Tim Hetherington, who traveled to the Korengal Valley to chronicle the deployment of the men of Battle Company, 2nd of the 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.  Hetherington – a contributing photographer at Vanity Fair – wrote this guest blog just for the USO, and he offers insight into the creative process, and how the film continues to touch both the audiences and filmmakers alike…

A few months ago, I received a phone call from Santana ‘Rudy’ Rueda, one of the soldiers from Second Platoon, Battle Company, 173rd Airborne. I was supposed to join him at a film festival in Missouri for a screening of the film Restrepo, but had not been able to make it there because of a snowstorm in New York. He sounded a little out of breath and stunned,

“Tim, man, you’re not going to believe this.”

“Why? What’s going on Rudy?”

“I – I’m standing across the street from the movie theatre, and they’ve got the name Restrepo in massive letters above it on the sign board. I can’t believe it.”

“That’s good huh?” I asked.

“Yeah – but I just never thought that I’d see my dead friend’s name written so large”, he replied.

From 2007-8, author Sebastian Junger and I followed a platoon of soldiers in the remote Korengal Valley. We wanted to make the most immersive and experiential war film we could. We felt that many in the US had no idea how soldiers actually live and fight, and our desire was to bridge that gap – to reconnect people in the country with what soldiers are doing out in places like Afghanistan. We purposely did not interview generals or politicians (the soldiers we were with didn’t) and avoided any voiceover commentary – we just wanted to show what the GI experience is like. We felt that the public needs to see, digest, understand and honor this regardless of political beliefs. We called the film Restrepo – named after the platoon medic who was killed early on in the deployment and the outpost that the men built and named in his honor. But we also felt that the name Restrepo signified the idea of every soldier and the loss that every soldier endures.

Since we have started showing the film across the country, we’ve had incredible responses. I’ve had wives come and tell me how the film has helped them understand what their husband go through and Vietnam veterans who say it spoke of their experience too. It also feels like the country wants to talk about the war in a way that is not divided along the usual partisan lines, and that people want to connect with those who fight on our behalf. Last week I traveled to Albany for a screening of Restrepo. Following a packed screening, the audience stayed on to listen to a Q+A with Brendan O’Bryne (one of the soldiers from Second Platoon), Troy Steward (a National Guardsman who now runs the military blog Bouhammer.com) and myself. What actually took place was something quite remarkable that more resembled a town hall meeting as people began to voice their thoughts about the war and the effects on soldiers. At one point Brendan declared,

“I learnt how to strip an M-4 in twenty seconds, and I can put one back together again in the same time. But I never learnt how to deal with seeing my friends killed. No one prepared me for that.”

At the end of the evening, people stayed on to talk to Brendan and Troy, each sharing experiences and insights. At one point I turned around to see Brendan hugging a woman who had lost her son in Iraq, and I thought to myself, if we can replicate what happened here tonight across the entire country – well, wouldn’t that be something.

*****

We want to extend a huge thank you to everyone involved with Restrepo and especially Tim Hetherington, for writing this blog.  And if you’re in the DC area tomorrow, you’re invited to come out to E Street Cinema for a Q&A with Sebastian Junger after the 3:00p show.  Hope to see you there!

This Week’s Snag Film: Dreams on Spec

Here at the USO, we’re always looking to bring you the biggest celebrity entertainers from the worlds of music, television, film and beyond.  And behind all that talent is another group of individuals who create things like sets, costumes, backup music, and scripts…and it’s a competitive field!  Every year tens of thousands of scripts are finished, but only a few hundred are made into movies.  This week’s Snag Films documentary Dreams on Spec tells that story.

Dreams on Spec takes an intimate look at how far people will go – and how much they will sacrifice – for the chance to pursue their dreams. This feature-length documentary delves into the lives of three aspiring Hollywood screenwriters as they pour their hearts into their spec scripts, pitch their ideas to anyone who will listen, go to meetings, hold table reads, and work at low-level day-jobs in the hopes of one day seeing one of their beloved creations made into a movie.

View it for FREE right now!