Let's Honor America’s Heroes this July 4th

Heroes should die famous.

Sadly, many don’t, and that’s why Freethink Media—a production company started in 2010 that’s devoted to telling stories about freedom, human well-being, and achievement—produced the heartwarming, award-winning documentary film Honor Flight.

Honor Flight tells the story of four living World War II veterans and a Midwest community that raises the necessary funds to give them and thousands of veterans the trip of a lifetime: an honor flight to Washington, D.C. to see the memorial constructed for them in 2004, nearly 60 years after war.

The film highlights the good work the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization, has done in transporting more than 100,000 veterans from WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam War from across 117 cities for an unforgettable 24-hour journey to Washington, D.C. to visit their memorials, recognize their service, and say thanks.

My husband and some Leadership Institute coworkers joined me several weeks ago at The Heritage Foundation for an evening screening of the film.

What I saw and more, what I felt, moved me to tears and left me with a profound appreciation for those who gave their lives, limbs, time, and families for my freedom decades before I was born.  We left Heritage cherishing America and her many freedoms, and I highly recommend seeing this documentary.

The film has received many awards including: the Best of Festival Documentary Feature in 2013 by the Richmond International Film Festival; the 2013 winner of the Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition by the Cleveland International Film Festival; the Guinness World Record for the largest film screening in 2012; the 2013 winner of the Best of Festival Documentary Feature by the GI film Festival; and the Best Documentary Audience Choice in 2013 by the Omaha Film Festival.

But that’s not the full story -- at least not where the Leadership Institute is concerned.

Meet Jo Jensen, the marketing director for Freethink Media.

She’s been busy this year raising awareness for Honor Flight, and has worked hard in part because it’s personal to her.

“My grandfather served in WWII and my mother is a WWII military historian,” Jo shared. “Having the opportunity to meet WWII veterans and hear their stories first-hand is an experience that I am grateful for and will never forget.”  

Originally from Billings, Montana, Jo went to Mount Holyoke College, a liberal arts college for women in Massachusetts, where she received a degree in political science and a minor in economics.

“When I was in college, I was involved with helping a student group called Students for Saving Social Security (S4) get started. By my junior year, 2005 to 2006, we had more than 300 campus chapters comprised of more than 10,000 students. Many of these campus chapters were Leadership Institute (LI) student groups and LI was instrumental with providing training through field reps and helping our organization get started through direct mail donations,” Jo said. 

Since college, Jo has attended five trainings at the Leadership Institute: LI’s Youth Leadership School in December 2010, Public Speaking Workshop in October 2010, On-Camera Television Workshop in September 2010, Legislative Project Management School in September 2010, and Grassroots Activist School in March 2008.

In 2009, Jo attended LI’s Conservative Job Fair at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where more than 739 jobseekers came to meet with conservative and libertarian employers.

Later that year, Jo was selected by one of the CPAC Job Fair recruiters to be a year-long Koch Associate. She was also in the inaugural class of the National Review Institute’s Washington Fellows program and helped found Generation Opportunity, where she later became the associate vice president of national stakeholder relations and operations.

“Even as I have changed roles, I have continued to participate in Leadership Institute trainings. I just saw a training in public relations that I am considering going to this year,” Jo said. “There are a lot of opportunities to learn how to organize students, communicate your ideas succinctly, and to sharper your on-camera skills.”  

Jo was instrumental in helping break the Guinness World Record for the largest audience in history at a film screening with 28,442 people in attendance at Honor Flight’s premiere in August 2012.

For Memorial Day this year, Jo helped organize 80 screenings of the film at theaters and community centers, including one hosted by President George H.W. Bush near his home in Maine.

“I recommend this July Fourth making time between the picnics and fireworks to sit down and watch Honor Flight the movie with your family and friends,” Jo said. “Honor Flight is a powerful documentary, but its real impact occurs when families share the experience together and talk about our heritage of where freedom comes from.”   

After Honor Flight was made available for purchase and download, it immediately became the top rated documentary on Amazon for weeks! You can download Honor Flight on iTunes and the DVD can be purchased on Amazon.


More than 640 WWII veterans die every day, and that’s why honoring them now is so critical.

“The easiest and most important way to get involved is to just express your gratitude for their service. In the movie, we show the WWII veterans being surprised on their trip home with thank you letters from community members and their family. I don't think people realize just how much it means to veterans to have their service recognized and to be thanked with a handshake, a hug or a thank you card,” Jo said.

There are multiple opportunities to get involved with this movement of honoring veterans.

You can apply to be a guardian for one special veteran, a volunteer to welcome them back home at the end of their journey or to welcome them to DC (there are 117 cities that send veterans with trips every weekend April through October), or considering being a host for a private screening of the film. And of course, if you know of a veteran that should receive this honor trip, please help them apply.

“The Leadership Institute has served as a great networking resource to me and also helped me navigate Washington, D.C.,” Jo shared. “I always recommend an LI training to folks new to DC because it’s a great way to get connected and sharpen your skills!”

Register online for an LI training like Jo and become more effective so this generation continues to preserve freedom!

Follow Jo on Twitter @JoJensen.

Please congratulate Jo Jensen on her wonderful work of publicizing the gift of service World War II veterans have given, and please welcome her as LI’s Graduate of the Week.

There will be no featured spotlight next week and this feature will resume the week of July 8. To nominate a Leadership Institute graduate or faculty member to be featured as LI's spotlight of the week, please contact LI's Director of External Affairs Lauren Day, formerly Lauren Hart, at Lauren@LeadershipInstitute.org.