National Spirit of '45 Day spokesman Jerry Yellin salutes the more than 200 youth volunteers who carried photos of America's WWII Fallen from the National Archives to the Wall of Gold Stars at the National World War II Memorial where they placed flowers in a giant wreath to conclude the annual Spirit of '45 Memorial Day of Service (Wreath and flowers donated by Murphy Funeral Home,Dignity Memorial)
Spirit of '45
Memorial Day "March of Heroes"
In 2013, more than 250 youth and their families joined National Spirit of '45 Day spokesman Jerry Yellin, resident of Iowa, who laid wreaths at various memorials and appeared as an Honorary Marshal in the nation's largest Memorial Day Parade. A P51 fighter pilot who served in the Pacific, he flew the final combat mission of WWII on August 14, 1945, and lost his wing man that day -- the last man to die in the war. Click here to read Jerry's memories of that historic day.
Jerry and Jessica Elliott were invited to be the lead off speakers for the Parade opening ceremonies on the steps of the National Archives, where they were joined by hundreds of Spirit of '45 volunteers and the public. Jessica and her family drove from Urbana, IL to help out this year.
Spirit of '45 Day spokesman Jerry Yellin salutes the reviewing stand as he passes in front of the National Archives. R, photo of Jerry taken in June 1945 on Iwo Jima.
All volunteers, who ranged in age from 7 to 65, wore Spirit of '45 Day caps and campaign pins, and will receive certificates and letters of commendation signed by Chief Historian of the National Parks Dr. Robert Sutton, acknowledging their 6 hours of service.
In keeping with year's Parade honoring the legacy of the US Army, Spirit of '45 paid tribute to the more than 800 Japanese Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice during WWII who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and 100th Infantry Battalion, by carrying the photos of 10 who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for laying down their lives in service.
Our group was joined by the Japanese American Veterans Association who participated in a special early morning wreath laying ceremony at the Memorial to Japanese American Patriotism in World War II.
The wreath was placed on behalf of Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who served in the legendary 442nd received the Medal for his bravery, and later went on become one of America's longest serving public servants. Sen. Inouye helped lead the effort in the US Senate to create Spirit of '45 Day.
Messages from Hawaii Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa and California Congressman Mike Honda were read following remarks by Dan Matthews, chairman of the board of the Memorial, who was joined by two surviving members of the 442nd. Richard Pasciuto performed "Taps." (Wreath donated by Harvey Bollinger of National Funeral Home.)
Click here for the flyer describing this year's ceremony.
Earlier in the day, Eddie and his team joined Jerry at the Air Force Memorial to lay a wreath on behalf of Jerry's wingman Phil Schlamberg, and the 65 Tuskegee Airmen who fought for freedom during WWII.
Jerry with Memorial director Barb Taylor and youth leader Alexandria "Alex" Tolbert, who spoke movingly about the Tuskegee Airmen Gold Stars during the Air Force Memorial's annual ceremony. This is the 6th consecutive year that Spirit of '45 has been invited to participate. (The wreath was donated by Brent Pearson of Arlington Funeral Home.)
One of the highlights of this Memorial Day, was the special morning ceremony at the Marine Corps Memorial which continued the tradition begun by Harold "Skip"Adams, an Iwo Jima veteran who was a national spokesman for Spirit of '45 Day until his death on November 12, 2012.
A magnificent wreath of flowers in Marine Corps colors was generously donated by Robert (Bryan) Allison of Murphy Funeral Homes in Arlington, who spoke movingly about his grandfather's service as a Marine in WWII. Richard Pasciuto again performed a stirring "Taps" as a crowd of about 200 people - including a National Parks Service Ranger -- stood silently at attention. Bryan also generously donated the wreath and 400 red, white and blue flowers that were placed at the Wall of Gold Stars at the National WWII Memorial at the conclusion of the Day (see below),
Bryan with his grandfather's photo (courtesy Walgreens) Jerry, Ray Elliott, the Iwo Jima Association of America (with beard), and Ed Schloeman, co-chairman of Operation Wounded Warrior, with three unidentified Vietnam War Marine vets.
Jamie Sawatsky of Rocky Run Middle School, Chantilly, VA, helped coordinate this year's Spirit of '45 Memorial Day of Service. This is the third year in a row that Rocky Run has participated in this annual Memorial Day event. The school has a nationally recognized WWII oral history program that has interviewed hundreds WWII veterans since 2002.
Jamie Sawatzky with volunteers who assembled at the Navy Memorial's Burke Theatre, and on the steps of the National Archives during the opening ceremonies for the National Memorial Day Parade. The United States Navy Memorial has been a founding member of the Spirit of '45 Day collaborative since 2010, and hosts the annual Memorial Day of Service pre-Parade briefing at its Burke Theatre each year.
Veterans History Project Director Bob Patrick urges youth to continue to help preserve the stories of the WWII veterans in their family and community during the pre-Parade briefing at the Navy Memorial. Ed Schloeman, Vietnam War veteran and co-chairman of Operation Warrior Wellness, leads youth in moment of quiet meditation. (Wreath donated by Duane Hills of Joseph Grawler's Sons, Inc, a Dignity Memorial provider)
Youth volunteers marched with photos of the 38 men who were KIA when a kamikaze crashed into the USS Kidd on April 11, 1945. The ship was named after Adm. Issacc Kidd who was on the USS Arizona when it sank during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The USS Kidd Veterans Museum & Memorial in Baton Rouge, LA is a founding member of the Spirit of '45 Day collaborative and hosted the first Spirit of '45 Day National Leaders Conference in February 2011.
Cliff Jordan played a beautiful rendition of "Taps" after each youth placed a flower in the Spirit of '45 Day wreath that was placed at the Wall of Gold Stars at the National WWII Memorial. Jerry Yellin spoke to our tired but proud volunteers, thanking them for their Day of Service, and inviting them to join him at the Memorial on Sunday afternoon, August 11, 1945 to begin the national cross country Tribute to the Greatest Generation. Click here to learn more about the Tribute.
As always, every Spirit of '45 Day event and activity is very much a community effort, somewhat like an Amish barn raising, with everyone pitching in to make a contribution where needed. Here are the organizations and individuals who did such an outstanding job supporting the Spirit of '45 effort on Memorial Day 2013:
  • Four Dignity Memorial funeral homes donated beautiful wreaths for our four ceremonies at the Japanese American WWII Memorial (Harvey Bollinger, National Funeral Home), Air Force Memorial (Brent Pearson, Arlington Funeral Home), US Navy Memorial (Duane Hills, Joseph Grawler's Sons), Marine Memorial and the National World War II Memorial (Bryan Allison, Murphy Funeral Home).
  • U-Haul International donated the use of a van for the day.
  • Walgreens local stores donated 10 last minute posters (including Sen. Dan Inouye's), and 400 bottles of water that were distributed by 5 volunteers.
  • Bob Tasner knocked 50% off the cost of the Spirit of '45 Day campaign buttons that were affixed to the blue caps from Mary Beth Cox at "Ship's Hatch" that our volunteers wore in the Parade.
  • Kim Gilmore of HISTORY and Paul Haley of the US Navy Memorial provided us with some much appreciated financial support to help defray our expenses.
  • Chris McIntyre provided a car for local transportation and carried the wreath and flowers. Steve Smith and his staff at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill once again made our visiting team members feel right at home.
Thanks to the following individuals and groups who made this year's event such a success:
Richard Pasciuto and Cliff Jordan of Bugles Across America
Chris McIntyre
Auston and Bonnie O'Neill
Ray & Vanessa Elliott and their daughters Jessica and Caitlin
Babette and Eddie and the "Pod Squad"
Roxanne and Charlie and their Girl Scouts
Eddie Harbinger and his Tuskegee Airmen Team
Rene Boone and volunteers from the Ideal Academy
Barb Taylor, Director, Air Force Memorial
Steve Smith and his staff at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill
Paul Haley and Danielle Loewy of the United States Navy Memorial
Kim Gilmore, HISTORY/A&E
Joanne Friedman and Ashleigh Walker of U-Haul International
Mary Beth Cox, "Ship's Hatch"
A special thanks to Walgreens store managers for their donations!
Rob Ware and Zach Archie, Walgreens @ 4225 Connecticut Ave. NW
Frank Guilli, Walgreens @ 1217 22nd St. NW
For more photos from 2013, click here (photos courtesy of Jeff Malet)
We are especially grateful for the magnificent wreaths that were donated by Dignity Memorial funeral services providers for all of this year's ceremonies.