05/24/2013 04:33 pm ET Updated Jul 24, 2013

"Honor Flight" on Memorial Day, 2013

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those men

and women who have died in our nation's service. It was originally

known as Decoration Day and was perhaps our most solemn holiday.
Memorial Day was established by a General Order issued

by the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. It

was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on

the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National


But the solemnity of the occasion has steadily abated in

recent times. It is now seen as as the beginning of

summer....celebrated with parades and picnics and fun and games

and three-day sales.

As recounted in an internet history of the holiday, "Traditional

observance ....has diminished over the years. Many Americans

nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial

day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly

ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper

flag etiquette for the day" (half-staff until noon, full staff


The change started taking place after Congress passed the

National Holiday Act of 1971, which made the day into a three-day

weekend. As a statement by the Veterans of Foreign Wars

proclaimed, "Changing the date merely to create three-day

weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt,

this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant


Bills have been introduced in Congress to restore May 30 as a

one-day observance of Memorial Day, but with little success.
In the meantime, there is an antidote to the nonchalance

in the form of a documentary entitled "Honor Flight." Honor Flight

refers to a non-profit program of local and locally-funded

programs which fly World War II veterans to Washington to visit

the WWII Memorial (opened only in 2004) and other memorials,

such as the Air Force memorial, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

and the replica of the Iwo Jima flag-raising.

It chronicles the powerful and heart-warming and at times

heart-wrenching stories of four WWII vets from Wisconsin (the

program exists in 27 other states). They emotionally recollect

their wartime experiences and remind of us of how much we owe

to those who fought in WWII., those members of the "Greatest


The doc is the creation of Dan Hays, a filmaker in

Washington DC, who was alerted to Honor Flights and went to the

WWII Memorial to talk to vets. He said when one of them told

him, "I could die a happy man now that I've made this trip," the

idea for the film was born.

Joe Demler, one of the four vets featured in the film,

noted that "When the veterans came home, there was no welcome

home ceremony. It was someting they didn't get 60 years ago

when they returned from service...It means a lot to those veterans

who are now in the 80's and 90's.....It's a great feeling."
"Honor Flight" is being shown in small towns all over America.

It's also accessible on Video On Demand at Snag Films, I Tunes

and Amazon and will be available on DVD on June 4.

If you want to be reminded of what should be the real meaning

of Memorial Day, this is must-see video.