WWII veterans and re-enactors ride on Spirit of '45 70th Anniversary Commemoration float in the 2015 National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, DC on May 25. The float, which featured a life sized sculpture depicting the famous "Times Square Kiss" of August 14, 1945, by acclaimed artist Seward Johnson, was provided by U-Haul International which celebrated the 70th anniversary of the company's founding in 1945.
Spirit of '45
Memorial Day of Service
Join the "March of Heroes"!
Monday, May 29, 2017
Each year on Memorial Day, hundreds of youth volunteers come to the nation's capitol to march in the National Memorial Day Parade carrying poster sized photos of the more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives in the cause of freedom during World War II.
Faces of the Tuskegee Airmen who were killed defending freedom and democracy in WWII.
Youth volunteers gather at the Navy Memorial where they receive enlarged photos of Americans who were killed during WWII that are carried in the National Memorial Day Parade and watch videos about WWII Gold Stars produced by youth who participated in the award winning Stories of Service program - a tradition that began in 2007.
At the end of the Parade route at 17th Street, the Spirit of '45 marchers continue on to the National World War II Memorial where they are given red, white and blue flowers provided by Murphy Funeral Home that they place in wreaths in front of the Wall of Gold Stars that represents the more more than 400,000 Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice during the war.
They then assemble along the reflecting pool for a group photo to formally conclude their Spirit of '45 Memorial Day of Service.
For more information, contact Jamie Sawatsky firstname.lastname@example.org
Spirit of '45 Oregon led the March of Heroes up Constitution Avenue on May 30, 2016
2015 Spirit of '45 Memorial Day of Service
kicks off countdown to WWII 70th Anniversary Commemoration in August
Each year on Memorial Day, hundreds of youth volunteers come to the nation's capitol to march in the National Memorial Day Parade carrying poster sized photos of 400 of the more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives in the cause of freedom during World War II.
This year the Spirit of '45 entry included a Spirit of '45 70th Anniversary Commemoration float and a group of American Legion Riders led by Dr. E. Bruce Heilman, the chancellor of the University of Richmond, who rode his motorcycle 6,000 miles to promote awareness about this year's events in August.
Earlier in the day, Dr. Heilman spoke to the group during the pre-Parade briefing at the Navy Memorial where he received the Spirit of '45 National Leaders Medal.
Cole Kleitsch (founder and president, Walking Civics), Eddie Harbison, Dr. E. Bruce Heilman, Dani Masterson (Bugles Across America), Jamie Sawatzky (Rocky Run Middle School) and Warren Hegg (Keep the Spirit of '45)
Following the briefing, the group marched single file to the steps of the National Archives for a photo before taking up their positions to march in the Parade.
Led by the flags of America's WWII allies, Dr. Heilman and the American Legion Riders preceded the Spirit of '45 70th Anniversary Commemoration float and the hundreds of marchers carrying photos of the fallen of WWII, including posthumous recipients of the Medal of Honor, the 66 Tuskegee Airmen and members of the all Japanese-American 442nd Battalion and others who lost their lives in the cause of freedom during the war.
At the end of the Parade the group filed into the National World War II Memorial for a wreath laying ceremony that concluded with "Taps" played by BAA bugler Dani Masterson, a fitting climax to their extraordinary Spirit of '45 Memorial Day of Service.
Special thanks to U-Haul International for providing the float this year, and for the pick up that transported the "Times Square Kiss" to Washington, DC by Cole Kleitch.
Ashleigh Wagner of U-Hul with Dr. Heilman and American Legion Riders at National Memorial Day Parade. Cole sharing the story of Seward Johnson's sculpture depicting the iconic image of the "Times Square Kiss."
Marchers placed red, white and blue carnations in the wreath donated by Dignity Memorial each year. Youth volunteers with photos of Ernie Pyle, Joseph Kennedy, Jr. and Phil Schlamberg, the last man to die in WWII.
Spirit of '45 Spokesman Jerry Yellin
at Indy 500 Memorial Day Race
What an incredible moment: standing next to my friend as the national anthem was being sung!
Thank you Jerry, I'll never forget it!
Founder & Chairman, Indy Honor Flight
Overwhelmed with emotion, Capt. (ret.) Jerry Yellin stood at attention as the National Anthem was sung at the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 Memorial Day Race.
Yellin, 91, of Fairfield, IA, was invited by Grant Thompson, founder and chairman of Indy Honor Flight, to join 10 local WWII veterans who had recently been flown to the nation's capitol by Indy Honor Flight, and were honored trackside prior the greatest spectacle in racing attended by nearly 300,000 on Sunday, May 24.
Yellin was visibly moved as he stood at attention as Mr. Thompson held a poster sized photo of him as a young P51 pilot during WWII which was also was displayed across the 2.5 mile race track on the Speedway's giant video screen
Yellin has the distinction of having flown the final combat mission of WWII on August 14th, 1945, and is a national spokesman for Keep the Spirit of '45, a coalition of organizations and individuals that are spearheading a nationwide commemoration to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII this year in August.
A procession of more than 400 Indiana National Guardsmen who had marched the length of a pit row came to a half as the commanding officer stepped forward to thank Yellin and his fellow WWII veterans for their service.
Noting that they represented the more than 16 million who served during WWII, expressed his hope that America will keep their spirit alive, as the erupted in applause.
An unexpected trip down the red carpet had him rubbing elbows with celebrities and sports stars.
Yellin was flown into Indianapolis for the Memorial Day weekend by Indy Honor Flight who arranged several speaking opportunities for him. The media was busy interviewing Yellin and his fellow vets for a full two hours prior to the race.
"Jerry has an incredible way of connecting with people on other topics as well." said Thompson. "He spoke of his children, how one has marred into a Japanese family and lives there still, how we must be good stewards of the earth and how all people of all nationalities, and faiths are human beings... how we are all the same."
Yellin is slated to make several public appearances during the coming months including a media tour in Japan in July. He will be a guest speaker at the Air Force Association 70th Anniversary program that will be held at the Air Force Memorial on Friday, August 14.
For more about Jerry Yellin click here
Memorial Day 2014
Spirit of '45 Team leaders did a great job on Memorial Day 2015. (Above left) Spirit of '45 Day 2013 Teacher of the Year Jamie Sawatsky of Rocky Run Middle School in Chantilly, VA, recruited more than 250 students and parents from Virginia and Maryland this year. (Center) For the fourth year in a row, Eddie Harbison brought a team of youth to carry the photos of the 66 Tuskegee Airmen who were KIA during WWII. (Right) Val Pfundstein, who brought a continent of youth volunteers and parents from Long Island, NY, and New Jersey, prepares volunteers for their Spirit of '45 Memorial Day of Service.
(Above left) Jamie Sawatsky holding one of the photos of those who received the Medal of Honor posthumously in WWII. (Right) Volunteers assemble with their photos on the steps of the National Archives during the opening ceremonies for the Parade.
Rocky Run Middle School in Chantilly, VA, leads the recruitment of the youth volunteers for Memorial Day and Spirit of '45 Day programs in Washington, DC. More than 100 students from Rocky Run participate each year.
For the past four years, Dignity Memorial has provided the wreaths and flowers for these events and activities as part of its ongoing efforts to help keep the Spirit of '45 alive in America. Below, Bryan Allison of Murphy Funeral Home, accepts the 2013 Community Partner Award on behalf of Dignity Memorial during the pre-Parade briefing ceremony on May 26, 2014.
Mary Virginia Pittman-Walker, Navy League National Board Member and Spirit of '45 representative from Texas, joined youth volunteers for a pre-Parade wreath laying at the "Lone Sailor" statue as Auston O'Neill, Jr. performed "Taps" in honor of all those in the seaborne services who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II.
Special thanks to Tricia Freitage and all our friends at the Navy Memorial for hosting this year's pre-Parade briefing and to Dignity Memorial for donating the beautiful wreath.
Capt.Jerry Yellin marches down Constitution Avenue with youth volunteer carrying photo of his wingman Phil Schlamberg, who was KIA on the day the two of them flew the final combat mission of WWII on August 14, 1945. Yellin was the Honorary Grand Marshal of the National Memorial Day Parade in 2014 and 2014, and makes numerous public appearances and speeches on behalf of Spirit of '45 Day throughout the year.
One of the highlights of last year's National Memorial Day Parade was the appearance by the Spirit of '45 Day Express that traveled more than 22,000 miles throughout America to raise public awareness about Spirit of '45 Day and the 70th Anniversary of the end of WWII next year. (Right)
Eddie Harbison led youth volunteers carrying photos of Tuskegee Airmen who died defending freedom. Eddie has organized a team of volunteers for the past several years. The youth also participate in the annual ceremonies at the Air Force Memorial that are held at 9 a.m. on Memorial Day.
Val Pfundstein and her team of "Rosiettes" from Deer Park, NY, place wreaths at the Japanese American World War II Memorial and the Women's Military Memorial, and (below) at the grave of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg in Arlington National Cemetery on the Sunday before Memorial Day.
Earlier on Memorial Day morning, Eddie Harbison joined Jerry and Val and her Long Island "Rosiette's" at the USAF Memorial for its annual wreath laying ceremony. Eddie's team honored the 66 Tuskegee Airman who were KIA in WWII by displaying their photos which they carry later in the afternoon in the National Memorial Day Parade.
Bryan Allison and his family were joined by Richard and the Deer Park "Rosiettes" at the Iwo Jima Memorial to lay a wreath in honor of Tommy Begley and other Marines who gave their lives in service to their country during WWII. This annual Memorial Day tradition was started by the late Harold "Skip" Adams, one of the original Spirit of '45 Day national spokesmen who passed away in 2012. Semper Fi!
Wreath donated by Murphy Funeral Home.
Special thanks to Linda Laurie, Spirit of '45 Day National Events Coordinator, for assuring that everything went smoothly again this year. Despite her being more than 3,000 miles away in San Diego, we know she was there throughout the Day in Deep Spirit!
2013 Spirit of '45 Memorial Day of Service
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 Robert "Bryan" Allison of Murphy Funeral Home,Dignity Memorial)
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.
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.
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:
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
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
We are especially grateful for the magnificent wreaths that were donated by Dignity Memorial funeral services providers for all of this year's ceremonies.
Learn more about how Dignity Memorial and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization are supporting veterans and their families.
SAVE THE DATE!!
Join Jerry at the National WWII Memorial on Spirit of '45 Day
- Sunday afternoon, August 10, 2014 -
Youth volunteers on the steps of the National Archives for the opening ceremonies of the 2012 National Memorial Day Parade in Washington. DC, as 50 white doves flew overhead (provided through the courtesy of Joseph Grawlers Sons, Inc.)
Youth volunteers from Rocky Run Middle School of Chantilly, VA, pose for a photo at National WWII Memorial at the close of the 2012 Spirit of '45 Memorial Day of Service.