A new film starring World War II veterans from Iowa will make its Omaha debut Sunday as the filmmakers raise money for Honor Flights that take aging vets to visit Washington, D.C.
The documentary, "None Less Than Heroes," is the story of an Iowa Honor Flight from beginning to end. It also includes the war remembrances of a dozen of the flight's passengers.
On camera, the veterans, now in their 80s and 90s, tell the audience about the fear, confusion and brotherhood experienced in World War II.
They discuss the luck they feel at having survived Omaha Beach or Bastogne or kamikazes in the South Pacific.
Cameras capture them walking around the National World War II Memorial — many seeing it for the first time — and then visiting the graves of friends and family members buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
"Most of these guys (in the film) have compartmentalized a lot of these memories for years," said Jeff Ballenger, the film's producer and the organizer of several Iowa Honor Flights. "It's time for them to start downloading."
The documentary, showing at King of Kings Church, 11615 I St., at 2 p.m. Sunday, is narrated by actor Gary Sinise.
The event is free and open to the public. DVDs of the documentary will be available for purchase for $9.95 after the event. Copies of the 43-minute film also are sold at honorflightfilm.org. All proceeds will support future Honor Flights, Ballenger said.
Ballenger hatched the idea of a documentary after organizing several Honor Flights in central and western Iowa.
Honor Flights, which generally include a dinner as well as the trip to the World War II Memorial, have taken veterans from 30 states to the nation's capital.
In western Iowa, Ballenger, the co-owner of a car dealership and car washes, has sponsored eight flights that chauffeured 1,800 veterans to Washington. In Nebraska, Bill and Evonne Williams have organized Honor Flights that took 1,500 Nebraska vets to the capital.
Ballenger secured funding from private donors for the documentary, got a crew to shoot footage of a 2010 Honor Flight and then scored Sinise as the narrator through an old friend with Hollywood connections.
"I've been hearing these stories from the veterans for years," Ballenger said. "To actually capture it and save it for future generations has just been really special."
Proceeds from movie sales already have allowed his group to donate money to an eastern Iowa Honor Flight, he said.
"They answered the call on all our behalf, and it's a debt we will never be able to fully repay," Ballenger said of the veterans. "In a very small way, by doing the Honor Flights, we're trying to say 'Thank you.' "
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