2015  Spirit of '45
Memorial Day of Service
  Kicks off Countdown to WWII 70th Anniversary
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 sponsored by U-Haul 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.
Special thanks to U-Haul International for providing the float this year, and for the pickup truck that transported the acclaimed artist Seward Johnson's sculpture depicting the famous "Times Square Kiss" to Washington, DC
Ashleigh Wagner of U-Haul 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."
Thanks again to our friends at the American Veterans Center!
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.
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!
Grant Thompson
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.
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. 

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