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Gift of flight thrills WWII vet on his 90th birthday

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Jerry Yellin; WWII pilot and present day hero is a man with a tremendous sense of patriotism and dignity, and Air Group One of the Commemorative Air Force has recently teamed up with Spirit of ’45 to give back to a man who has given so much.

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Shortly after the attack of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, Jerry made the decision to sign up for the U.S. Army Air Corps and fly for his country. Within months, he was undergoing training in the T-6 Texan, the same WWII trainer that he would sit at the controls of for the first time in over seventy years for his 90th birthday. Air Group One’s SNJ-5 is the Navy-affiliated version of the T-6, but the cockpit looks exactly like what Jerry would have found himself in 1943 (modern radios aside). After his training, he went on to fly P-51 Mustangs with the 78th Fighter Squadron in Iwo Jima, participating not only in the first land-based mission over Japan, but the last mission of the war in the Pacific.

Donned in an authentic WWII flight suit and parachute, Air Group One pilot, Erich Moulder, accompanied Jerry into the wild blue yonder for a commemorative flight that he won’t soon be forgetting. The two flew over beautiful San Diego county and took in the sights of the city that Jerry called home after the war and buzzed the USS Midway Museum and Spirit of 45’s “Tribute to the Greatest Generation by the Latest Generation” at the foot of the “Times Square Kiss” statue at the harbor. Audiences stopped and held their breath as Erich and Jerry first passed from Point Loma over the bay, then clapped, whistled and exclaimed as the duo banked hard and doubled back back for a final flyover.

Jerry is no stranger to aerobatic maneuvers and the exhilaration of a flight in a WWII- era airplane, but when asked afterwards what he thought of the flyover, Jerry enthusiastically remarked “thrill of thrills”, with a satisfied grin that his aviator glasses and USAAC crush cap couldn’t hide.

Jerry celebrated his 90th birthday with ‘Spirit of ‘45’ and Air Group One of the Commemorative Air Force as an honored guest and frequent speaker at events nationwide. In addition to perpetuating the spirit of August 14 and 15 of 1945 as a date of remembrance, Jerry does his part to instill patriotism and educate today’s youth about the history of WWII. Jerry is active in driving fundraising for many causes; one especially near to his heart is treatment of combat-inflicted Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, for which he counsels veterans about the benefits of Transcendental Medication to help heal symptoms of PTSD. Jerry is the embodiment of the ‘Greatest Generation’ and everything that Air Group One and the Spirit of ‘45 endeavor to preserve. Upon meeting Jerry, it becomes clear that throughout the years he has maintained the same dedicated sense of purpose as he did fighting for his country during WWII. As Jerry continues to proudly wave the flag of patriotism and give back to veterans and the community as a whole, organizations such as Air Group One and ‘Spirit of ‘45’ will continue to give back to admirable individuals like Jerry Yellin.

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