Explosion of the USS Shaw, Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941 by Public Domain photo via USN photographer, collage by M. Butler for opednews
Dec. 7, 2012 is the 71st anniversary of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, as well as WW2 veteran, Joe Demler's 87th birthday. A high school track athlete, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
Here, Joe holds the iconic photo of himself taken by LIFE magazine photographer John Florea in Spring, 1945, shortly after his liberation from a German POW camp.
Joe Demler, Life magazine's by Photo Credit: Freethink Media
Florea notes, "In the town of Limburg we discovered an Allied prison camp ... They asked me for food that I didn't have. I did have a roll of Life Savers with me, and I said to these fellows all in a row, 'Fellows, this is all I've got.' So I gave each one of these kids a Life Saver out of my roll. Finally, I started to run out and I started breaking them in half and giving each one of them a half. Then I asked a couple of them if they could get up. One kid could not. He weighed something like 70 pounds, and I'll never forget his name ... Demler, Joe Demler."
by Library of Congress image, LIFE photographer John Florea
Joe actually weighed 68 lbs. Nowadays, his philosophy is, "Every Day is a Bonus."
by Photo Credit: Freethink Media
Joe's buddy Harvey Kurz, who struggles with dementia, bags groceries at the local Pick 'n Save in Milwaukee, WI, where customers appreciate his lively sense of humor.
Harvey Kurz, bags groceries. Milwaukee, WI. by http://www.honorflightthemovie.com
What many don't guess is that he watched the flag being raised at Iwo Jima.
Now Harvey and Joe share their stories to raise money for sending their fellow vets on the Honor Flight trips of their lives, and their efforts have helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the cause. And Joe's wife, Loretta, shares tearfully that his Honor Flight activities have done more to help with his dementia than his meds.
Joe Demler and Harvey Kurz on the radio by Freethink Media
The documentary, Honor Flight: One Last Mission, which follows them and other veterans from Wisconsin on the grand adventure, opens today in NYC and Pasadena, CA.
Honor Flight movie poster by http://www.honorflightthemovie.com
Stars and Stripes Honor Flight (SSHF) is a Wisconsin-based hub of the national Honor Flight Network, the original organization, which was started in Ohio in 2004. A true "bottom-up" project, it began with one guy and a dream.
Earl Morse, was a Veterans' Clinic physician's assistant and Retired Air Force Captain. He knew that several of his aging patients had never seen the capitol city of the country they had fought for, so many decades ago. And most were not physically nor financially able to consider a trip like that on their own.