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Houston Astros in the News

Astros salute World War II vets with documentary

Honor Flight: One Last Mission

By: Ken Hoffman


Astros Salute to Vets The Honor Flight flew this group of World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., in 2009 to see the World War II Memorial and other national sites. Johnny Hanson, Houston Chronicle Staff

A few months ago, Twila Carter was approached about finding a theater in Houston to show the documentary, "Honor Flight: One Last Mission."

Carter is projects manager for the Houston Astros. She's also a member of Daughters of the American Revolution. Add them up:

"We do things bigger in Texas … the Astros have a 135-foot video board."

She walked into Astros President Reid Ryan's office. It was a done deal practically before she could start her pitch.

"The Astros Salute to Veterans presented by Occidental Petroleum" will take place at Minute Maid Park on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. The doors will open at 11 a.m. for music by country stars Tracy Byrd and Gary Morris. "Honor Flight: One Last Mission" will be shown at 2 p.m.

The documentary is about a nationwide program in which volunteers fly aging veterans of World War II to Washington, D.C., free of charge to visit the World War II Memorial. So far, the Honor Flight Network has flown 100,000 vets to the capital. There is an Honor Flight Network affiliate in Houston.

After seeing this documentary, you'll understand why the men and women who served in World War II earned being called "The Greatest Generation."

"Twila is a wonderful person who's proud of this country," said Ryan. "She began telling me about her idea to show this film at the ball park, and I got on board immediately. It's a no-brainer. There's no losing when you do something from the heart. I thought about my grandpa, who was a World War II vet, and how much he would have enjoyed being here to watch this film."

Free tickets

The Honor Flight flew this group of World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., in 2009 to see the World War II Memorial and other national sites.

Admission is free, but you'd be smart to reserve tickets now at astros.com/vets (or call the Astros' community affairs office at 713-259-8980). Ask for as many as you wish. Vets and active duty service people are invited, also family, friends and young people who need to know about the soldiers who fought in World War II.

Seating will be general admission. Parking will be free in all Astros lots. After Nov. 1, tickets will be available at Minute Maid Park. This event should be a packed stadium; buses will be coming in from San Antonio and Corpus Christi, so don't wait. Please don't ask for more tickets than you'll use, though.

"Honor Flight" was screened at Miller Park in Milwaukee last year and drew 28,442 fans - good enough to take the Guinness World Record for most people to watch a film together in one place.

Miller Park charged for tickets. Real classy, Milwaukee.

We can beat that.

Everybody at Minute Maid Park will be given a small U.S. flag. Veterans will get a T-shirt. Concession stands will be open. Channel 11's Debra Duncan will sing the national anthem. The program will be hosted by Channel 13's Tom Koch and Don Nelson. There will be a few speakers before the film is screened.

Carter swears each speaker will get three minutes, no more, and no political speeches will be allowed.

Thank you, Twila.

"It's about patriotism, no politics," she said.

I asked Ryan to tell me about his grandpa.

"His name was Larry Holdorff, and he was from Staten Island, N.Y. Although his father served as a captain in the Navy, my grandpa was in the Army. He was stationed on a transport vessel in the Pacific during World War II.

"He learned air conditioning as a trade during his time in the Army. So after the Army, he thought about the best place where he could use his skill in air conditioning - so he came to Texas. He was the lone Yankee in Alvin."

Concerts to come

While I had Ryan's ear, "When are you going to settle this mess with Comcast and U-Verse and Dish and DirecTV so fans can watch Astros games on TV again?"

Ryan assured me, "Our goal is to get the games on TV. We know the fans want that. And it's in the best interest of the Astros to get our games on TV. But we need a deal that makes sense for the team's long-term success."

Then I asked, "Paul McCartney played Minute Maid Park last November. It was a huge success. Are you going to put on more concerts?"

He answered, "Yes, without a doubt we're going to do more shows, as many as possible. My background is in minor league baseball, and I'm aware of bringing entertainment to the ballpark. We've already spoken to promoters about that."