YOUNTVILLE- One text to Tim McGraw and four weeks later nearly a 1000 individuals from the Napa Valley and Bay Area paid tribute to 84 WWII veterans.
"Connections between generations are essential for the mental health and stability of a nation." Margaret Mead
In late December, the Tug McGraw Foundation (TMF) recognized an opportunity to bring an intergeneration activity with Lionsgate's Midway Film to the Veterans Home of California, Yountville. How does one contact a major film studio? You text your honorary chair, Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and actor Tim McGraw. His response. "Absolutely."
Within four weeks, Lionsgate Entertainment, Lincoln Theater, The Tug McGraw Foundation, and CalVet Yountville came together to create a complimentary event for the community, veterans and their families. The red carpet event included a VIP reception, a screening of Midway followed by a Q&A with Midway's screenwriter Wes Tooke, production designer Kirk Petruccelli, Navy film advisor Chuck Myers (Docent at the USS Hornet in Alameda), and moderated by Admiral James “Jaws” Winnefeld (Ret), Ninth Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former TopGun Instructor.
THE WHY-BRAIN HEALTH
Photo: 100 year old, Captain Howard Halla and Travis Air Force Volunteer
When asked Jennifer Brusstar, CEO of the Tug McGraw Foundation (TMF), "the why" for such an event, " Brain health. When seniors and young adults are given the opportunity to interact, the results can be amazingly beneficial for both mental and physical health.
The Midway screening gave us that intergenerational opportunity by sharing history." She further stated, "there are but a fraction left of the 16 million Americans who together with our allies saved the world nearly seventy-five years ago.
The reception gave the younger generations the opportunity to meet and interact with the WWII veterans. The film and Q&A provided them a chance to receive knowledge and the wisdom to further their education as they grow."
Weeks before the event, TMF volunteers hand delivered invites to each of the 84 WWII veterans at the Home that included a VIP credential with their name and branch of service and paired with aviator glasses from Lionsgate. Photo: WWII U.S. Air Force veteran Franklin Henry receiving is VIP credential and aviators.
U.S. California National Guard, Lt. Col. Lori Schanhals and TMF volunteer delivered an invitation to a 97 year-old female veteran. In handing her the invite she teared up and said, " I don't deserve this, I was just an x-ray technician." Lt. Col. Lori Schanhals was taken back by her answer and said, " if not for you, I would never been able to become a helicopter pilot, you paved the way for women like me to enter into the military. You must never forget that."
Photos: Veterans WWII Spouse, Nancy Monte in authentic
40's nurses uniform U.S. Army veteran, Tony Furio (below)
Tony Furio, WWII veteran, recipient of the Purple during the Battle of the Bulge, said, "Thank you this means so much, it is the first time I've been thanked. I thought we were forgotten. You have no idea how much this means to me."
The Veterans Home coordinated special transportation and escorts for the WWII veterans. On the day of the event the residents and staff got an even bigger surprise when five brand new Bear Flag Buses pulled up to take them to the theater.
Upon arrival players from the Napa Valley Baseball Club, Blue Star mom, Debbi Di Martini, veteran spouses, Yountville Veteran Home employees, Travis Air Force Base, Navy SEALs, local officials and Tug's Mixed Nutts greeted and escorted the WWII veterans down the red carpet into the reception. Beloved Chef Bob Hurley and Chef Paul Fields had a bevy of a spread waiting for them.
Many of the veterans who moved to different areas of the home had lost contact with some of their old friends. The reception gave them that opportunity to reconnect. Photographer, Lowell Downey, wrangled them into position then dangled from the top of the staircase and captured a memorable group shot.
Photo: Veteran and Mixed Nutt, John Lew thrilled to see his friend 101 year old U.S. Marine Barbra Bregoff on the red carpet.
Before entering the theater, Admiral Winnefeld together with local officials, Senator Bill Dodd, Assemblymember, Cecillia Aguiar-Curry thanked the veterans for their extraordinary service and the community for coming out.
Yountville's Mayor, John Dunbar followed the thank you's with a heroic toast from a special 3L bottle of Purple Heart Wines that he brought to share at the event.
Before the start of the film, U.S. Air Force veteran Muriel Zimmer sang the national anthem to what was almost of a full house. Lincoln theater board members, Michael Madden and Chef Bob Hurley welcomed everyone. Veterans Home Administrator, Lisa Peake thanked the community for coming out including Major General Laura Yeager, Commander of the California National Guard who was in attendance. Photo: Veteran, Muriel Zimmer
Photo: Chef Bob Hurley, Michael Madden, Lisa Peake, Captain Ryan, Jennifer Brusstar
TMF CEO, Jennifer Brusstar, "Uncle" Hank McGraw, Tug's big brother and U.S. Navy, Captain Ryan Croley introduced Admiral James Winnefeld who tee'd up a very special message from Tim McGraw.
Watch Tim McGraw's message to the Napa Valley Community about the importance of coming together.
Following the video message, Admiral laid out the format for the Q&A, " it's going to be fun, we are going to grill these guys with questions on how they they brought this story to life."
Admiral Winnefeld knows a little something about moving making, he did several of the stunts and was an advisor to Tom Cruise's Block Buster, "TopGun."
Admiral with Navy Advisor, Chuck Myers, Production Designer Kirk Petruccelli and Screenwriter Wes Tooke.
Impact and Outcome
Photo: Photographer Lowell Downey's shot from the staircase!
Almost a week and half later, participants continue to write cards, text and emails to us with thoughts of gratitude.
David Miller from Petaluma wrote about bringing his friend WWII veteran, Albert Behrens:
"Thank you so very much for an absolutely spectacular day, honoring the veterans of World War II. What a gift from the Tug McGraw Foundation and the people of Yountville. It meant a lot to him, as it did all the vets, judging by their spontaneous eruption into applause at the end of the film."
Chris Padowan, President of Napa Valley Baseball Club texted about his players experience as volunteer escorts: "The baseball club had a blast and enjoyed their time with the veterans. It was truly a memorable event that sparked many conversations about history."
Lt Col Lori Schanhals, California National Guard said, "It was the pinnacle of my almost 31 years of Military service to honor the WWII veterans, the resident veterans, and the public who supports them. Working with the Tug McGraw Foundation on the Midway event was truly my honor." What you don't know, Lori retired two days after the event! Congrats from all of us
All Photo Credits: Lowell Downey, Art & Clarity
Ya Gotta Believe from all of Us....Lisa, Chef Bob, Michael, Amy, Jennifer and "Uncle" Hank
From all of us at the Tug McGraw Foundation, thank you Lionsgate, American Airlines, Chef Hurley, Chef Fields, Lincoln Theater Staff/volunteers, CalVet Yountville Staff, Travis Air Force Base volunteers, Mixed Nutts, community volunteers, vintners, Lowell Downey, Amber McHugh, John Lew, Sandra McGee, Deborah Di Martini, Silver Trident Winery, Raymond Vineyards, the Staglin Family, Silverado Resorts, Sebastian Crank, Amy Utley, Karen Penhale, Elizabeth Grillos, Mary Winnefeld, Sandy Winnefeld, Dan McCabe, Lisa Brasher, Jelly Belly, First Data and lastly to our TMF/Navy/Family Tribe.