My wife bought tickets months ago. We had it on the calendar - date night, if you will. The sitter was at home with the kids, so off we went. We got to Miller Park almost 90 minutes ahead of the ceremonies published start time. We finally got parked with about 60 minutes to spare. YES- there were that many people there to possibly make history as the largest audience for a movie's premier. The old record was just over 27,000 people. More on that tidbit of information later.
The atmosphere was much different than other times at the Park. There wasn't the dull roar of a baseball crowd there to watch the Brewers host some other team. The crowd this day was there to accomplish a few things on this mission. They were there to not only watch a movie premier, but to also pay tribute, honor, and thank all the veterans of Word War II.
I had time to glance around, after all the crowd consisted of a slightly older generation of guests this night. As I stood and waited, or walked at a slightly slower pace, I had time to appreciate all the former military wearing some form of uniform that identified their Post, Unit, or term of service. I'm not military, so forgive my lack of knowledge on military uniforms and protocol.
I do have military service in my family though. My Grandfather served in WWII as a heavy machinery operator. He moved all the blown up tanks, trucks, and other things not moving out of the way so our troops could get from point A to B. He never said much about the service, or his time overseas. He never said if he carried a weapon, or had to defend his own life, or the lives of those close to him. He's also been gone for 27 yrs, so there's no Honor Flight for him. My wife's Grandfathers - both of them - served in WWII. One was a glider pliot, the other was at Pearl Harbor. Both of my wife's grandfathers have passed on, so there's no Honor Flight for them either.
So as we made our way to our seats, we could feel the quiet anticipation and the nervous excitement of what was about to take place. This night was the premier viewing of "Field of Honor: A Salute to the Greatest Generation."
I'm not sure what to say about the event. It was hugely emotional for me. But what I can say it that it struck me to the core about how important an event the War was, and how many lives it affected. It also gave me a huge appreciation for the Memorial's importance to those who served and never got thanked for their service.
I was fighting back tears on so many occasions. I'm a sentimental man; touched by a lot of things. I cry at the National Anthem, I cry at weddings, and I cried a little for my Grandfather last night.
I'm not sure I can adequately capture in words what the film made me feel. I think for each person, it's going to have a different meaning because of how your family may have been touched by a military person's service, be it from 60 yrs ago, or as recent as yesterday. I have a son, 20 yrs old, that could some day be in the Military. He's got to straighten out a few things first before he can enlist. I pray I never have to visit a Memorial constructed to thank him for his service, but I'm glad the WWII veterans have a chance like Honor Flight to see the one constructed for them.
I can't share my thoughts aloud with my Grandfather, but I can try to live by some simple words I heard last night- "We dare not lead trivial lives!" I remember hearing that several times from Joe Dean, the local man that started this local movement to get our Wisconsin Veterans to their Memorial. I think my Grandfather would agree...
oh yeah- remember that little tidbit about the largest audience in attendance for a movie premier? Well, we beat it by over 1000 people! Guiness World Record officials were onsite, and verified gate attendance!