Thanksgiving Day has the Macy’s Parade, New Year’s Day has the Rose Parade and Independence Day has A Capitol Fourth fireworks extravaganza — so what of Memorial Day?
For producer Mickey Markoff, the answer is the National Salute to America’s Heroes: Presented by Hyundai in Miami Beach, Fla. The event returns to the shores of Miami this year from May 29 to 30 and specially features the Hyundai Air & Sea Show, which showcases state-of-the-art technology, equipment and service members from all five branches of the United States Military.
“There’s a million and a half people that have died for our freedom in this country,” Markoff tells Variety. “Kids that don’t have fathers and mothers and parents that don’t have kids that have died on behalf of our freedom — Memorial Day was designed to pay tribute to those people.”
What started as a method to hype up recruitment has become a full-fledged patriotic spectacular. Across five city blocks, the display village brings together the local community, service members from across the country and stunning exhibitions of military equipment and exercises, such as the Coast Guard air-sea rescue. An enlistment ceremony of 500 members is also set to take place. And even as COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease up across the country, Markoff assures plenty of safety protocols will be in place including special group seating, coronavirus-sniffing dogs at the entrance and the switch out of buffets for individually packaged food.
“It’s sort of the chance for people to wrap themselves in the flag and just not take our freedom for granted,” Markoff says. “It’s something that has such a purpose and such a quality. And I really believe this is God-breathed. I believe this is something that’s necessary for our country that brings everybody together.”
Hyundai recently renewed its sponsorship of the event for three more years and announced it is donating $50,000 to Folds of Honor to provide scholarships to spouses and children of fallen and disabled service members.
The mission of the Hyundai Air & Sea Show is furthered by the television special “Gold Star Tribute: A National Salute to America’s Heroes” from director and executive producer Peter Berg, which first aired in 2019. In addition to broadcasting footage from the air and sea show, the special tells the stories of Gold Star families to emphasize a message of remembrance and sacrifice to a national audience.
“Peter [Berg] believed in it so much,” Markoff says. “He’s a prolific director. … He wanted to be so involved he narrated the show.”
The highlights from the Hyundai Air and Sea Show — called the “National Salute to America’s Heroes”— will air over Fourth of July weekend globally on the Armed Forces Network. Watch the “Gold Star Tribute” in full below.