Here’s a look at the various specials and movies airing on and around this Memorial Day, which remember those who have served in the military, and particularly those who were lost. All times are Eastern. Programming subject to updates; check back for changes and additions.
My Vietnam Your Iraq (encore) — PBS, May (check local listings). Vietnam War veterans who have children who served in Iraq tell their stories. The program showcases the pride and fear a family shares when one is deployed.
The War (encore) — PBS, May (check local listings). Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s epic, seven-part 2007 documentary series explores the history and horror of World War II from an American perspective by following the fortunes of so-called ordinary men and women who became caught up in one of the greatest cataclysms in human history.
AMC War Heroes Weekend — AMC, Friday, May 25, at 9am through Monday, May 28, at 10pm. This movie marathon, hosted by Tom Brokaw, is devoted to classic war films and kicks off with A Bridge Too Far, and closes with Flags Of Our Fathers. In between is screened everything from Patton and the 45th anniversary presentation of The Dirty Dozen, to Heartbreak Ridge and Apocalypse Now: Redux, and many more.
TCM Memorial Day Tribute — TCM, Sunday, May 27, at 6:25am through Tuesday, May 29, at 6am. A marathon of war films, including Bataan (1943), The Steel Helmet (1951), The Guns of Navarone (1961), The Green Berets (1968), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and more.
National Memorial Day Concert 2012 — PBS, May 27, Live at 8pm (replay 9:30pm). Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna again co-host this annual concert from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. It’s a night of remembrance featuring an all-star lineup of dignitaries, actors and musical artists in performance with the National Symphony Orchestra. Featured during the concert will be Trace Adkins, Daughtry, Natalie Cole, Jessica Sanchez, Ellen Burstyn, Dennis Franz, Selma Blair, Russell Watson and Colin Powell.
“Movie Hero” Marathon — Antenna TV, May 28 at 5am through May 29 at 11am. A marathon of war films featuring movie heroes such as Humphrey Bogart, Sidney Poitier, James Stewart and Ronald Reagan. Films include Hellcats of the Navy (1957), Sahara (1943), King Rat (1965) and more.
“Band of Brothers” Marathon — Spike TV, May 28 from 9am-9pm. This 12-hour marathon airs the acclaimed series that focuses on “Easy” Company’s experiences during World War II. During the marathon, viewers will also have the chance to send messages to troops and veterans on Spike’s Facebook page that will be streamed live onscreen. Elijah Kelley (Red Tails) will also host a series of interstitials during commercial breaks that take viewers behind the scenes of Fleet Week 2012 in New York City. These vignettes include exclusive access to the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp; a front-row seat to Marine weapons demonstration and Naval air shows; backstage wit Katy Perry at a concert dedicated to the troops; and an inside look at a job fair for veterans as they prepare for the future with the help of Spike’s “Hire a Veteran” initiative.
Witness: G.I. Homecoming — National Geographic Channel, May 28 at 10pm. This special reveals the emotional stories behind the caught-on-tape surprise homecomings of U.S. service men and women, videos that have spawned their own popular sub-genre on video-sharing sites like YouTube. Weaving together home movies, war zone footage shot by the soldiers themselves and original, first-person accounts, the program tells the stories of the families’ journeys up to the moment of their unforgettable reunions. An older brother who makes it his mission to attend his sister’s college graduation; a husband who has left behind his wife and four young children; and a Navy airman who has the chance to surprise her family in front of a stadium full of Red Sox fans are among the stories told.
Independent Lens: “Hell and Back Again” — PBS, May 28 at 10pm; May 31 at 10pm. Nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar, this film tells the story of what it means to come home from war — injured physically and psychologically — and build a life anew. Filmed and directed by Danfung Dennis, the documentary transitions from stunning war reportage to an intimate, visceral portrait of one man’s struggle back home in North Carolina. There, Sergeant Nathan Harris, with the love and support of his wife, Ashley, confronts the physical and emotional difficulties of readjusting to civilian life.
Coming Home — Lifetime, May 30 at 9pm. Lifetime’s award-winning docuseries about U.S. armed service members’ surprise family reunions returns with new episodes. In the first new one, airing just after Memorial Day, Sesame Street‘s Elmo and Rosita travel all the way to Fort Bliss, Texas, to put together a surprise for the children of an Army sergeant who are having an especially hard time with their father’s deployment in Iraq.
Independent Lens: “Hell and Back Again” — Courtesy of Danfung Dennis
Witness: G.I. Homecoming — Credit Mindy Lewis