All eyes were on World War II veterans as they were honored and recognized at the World War II Memorial in Washington March 11 for their participation in the Pacific Campaign more than 65 years ago.
The 250 veterans attending the ceremony were flown in by the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit organization that provides trips for military veterans to the nation’s capital to see the memorials dedicated to their service. The ceremony, hosted by Home Box Office, coincided with the premiere of the “The Pacific,” a ten-part miniseries on HBO that highlights three Marines and their participation in the Pacific Campaign from 1941 to 1945.
“It’s about your service, and it’s about the whole legacy of the Marine Corps and the Army and the other branches of the military that fought and died and sacrificed so much, but built so much for all of us to enjoy today,” said Steven Spielberg, an executive producer of the miniseries.
Some of the veterans in attendance had never visited the memorials dedicated to their service. Frank Jurek, a World War II and Korean War veteran, said the chance to visit Washington for the first time was the greatest opportunity he’s ever had. During the ceremony, Jurek had a chance to reflect on the men he served with in the Pacific.
“They all had courage, believe me,” said Jurek. “Kids my age did everything we had to do, and we enjoyed every minute of it. It was something we had to do and that was it.”
The desire to honor the men who fought in the Pacific was always prevalent, said Tom Hanks, an executive producer of the miniseries. The final piece needed was a story to tell, which the producers found with two Marine memoirs: “With the Old Breed” by Eugene Sledge and “Helmet for My Pillow” by Robert Leckie. What interested Hanks the most was what was required of Marines to survive the war in the Pacific.
“They all have to be able to do the same thing, even if you’re a clerk,” said Hanks. “You have to get that marksmanship badge, you have to be physically fit, you have to be able to do anything.”
“The Pacific” premiered March 14 on HBO, and will run every Sunday night through May. The series also runs on the Armed Forces Network’s Spectrum channel every Saturday at 6 p.m. EST.