All-Around HonorWatts Communications Receives Award for Honoring Our Freedom
In my twenty-five year career working in television and video production, I’ve had the opportunity to cover some amazing events, such as the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, and the Badgers winning the Rose Bowl. I’ve also met some amazing and inspirational people while working on The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Preps Plus. But nothing in my career tops the honor of flying with Wisconsin’s veterans aboard Honor Flights to Washington, DC.
I’ve flown five times to videotape documentaries of these flights. The first two of these were with Stars & Stripes Honor Flight, as then-Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy hosted the documentaries. The next three were with Never Forgotten Honor Flight, based in Wausau, Wisconsin. Gannett Wisconsin Media/USA Today Wisconsin coordinated these programs. Packers fullback John Kuhn was the host back in 2016. The following year it was Jerry Kramer, who has since been awarded his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Watts Communications recently won a Silver Telly award for Jerry Kramer’s Honoring Our Freedom, which was recorded and presented in 2017. In this 30 minute program, the Packers’ legend interviewed many veterans who served in the Vietnam War as well as the Korean War. Kramer’s charming personality shines through in the documentary. His humility and his appreciation for what our veterans endured and sacrificed are also evident throughout the interviews.
The work day for me aboard these Honor Flights is both challenging and rewarding. It’s especially challenging as a “one-man-band,” being responsible for equipment, images, backgrounds for interviews, and the audio from multiple microphones,. But it’s an incredibly rewarding experience.
From arriving at the airport around 4:30 am, it’s a full day of taping interviews and gathering footage of the veterans visiting memorials, such as the World War II Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Pentagon/9-11 Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery. At this point, almost all of the veterans who fly with Never Forgotten Honor Flight are Vietnam vets. Documenting their time at the Vietnam Wall is very powerful, as they find the names of friends who were killed in action. It’s hard to even imagine what many soldiers had to endure, and even decades later, the emotions are still strong.
Speaking of emotions, the high point of the day has to be the arrival back home, around 10 pm, to a cheering crowd that fills the airport. For the Vietnam veterans especially, this is a homecoming that is long overdue.
In May of 2018, I got to work with this year’s host, Gilbert Brown. Like Lucroy, Kuhn, and Kramer, the popular former Green Bay defensive lineman did a great job. Gilbert did a great job of both greeting veterans and guardians with his upbeat personality, and listening to their experiences from many years ago.
Watts Communications is now putting the finishing touches on Gilbert Brown’s Honoring Our Freedom. The documentary will premiere around Veterans Day in November. In the meantime, portions of the veterans’ interviewed can be seen at honoringourfreedom.com. A new video is posted each week, until the documentary is released. The goal of the campaign is to help raise money to send more veterans on these Honor Flights. Watts Communications is proud to be a part of this campaign to honor our nation’s heroes.
Brad Preder, Watts Communications
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Wauwatosa WI 53226