To the editor:
Jerry Yellin passed Dec. 21. I attended a memorial for him here in the Sondheim, Jan. 13, with perhaps two hundred others. It began with 50 minutes of moving documentary on his life followed by reminiscences of three of Jerry?s sons; Mayor Ed Malloy; leaders from MUM, and a few people closest to him. Their words inspired me to reflect on my relationship with Jerry. I then composed the following.
One thing that I recall about Jerry?s speeches is him sometimes saying, ?Give yourself to someone else a little bit every day.? I believe that when I first met him, I heard him say something like that in a lecture (at our library, November 2011). After the lecture, I thought, Jerry has given so much, both in wartime and in service to veterans since then. What could I give to him in return?
It then occurred to me that he and I sort of had something in common: the Air Force Academy. He wanted to speak there, and as an Academy graduate, I had a way that might help.
I had (then) recently corresponded with the superintendent, Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, asking him to consider bringing the Transcendental Meditation technique to the cadets. TM had helped me in a quite profound way to adjust from lingering military issues, and I wanted cadets to have this opportunity as well.
I contacted Gen. Gould again on Jerry?s behalf, asking him to arrange for Jerry to speak to the cadets. Three months later, Jerry was there doing that! I again asked that he be invited back last year, which he was.
These two events proved symbiotic; in helping Jerry get there, my dream also was realized, of having cadets hear about TM. Jerry told his story of combat PTSD from his flying P-51 missions over Japan, and how TM 30 years later triggered his recovery. He encouraged cadets to learn it.
At one of Jerry?s speeches there last year, he closed by saying this: ?What an honor. What an honor. I always thought flying for my country was the best but this cannot be beat for me. Thank you. Thank you so much.? Wow. I felt deeply privileged to hear Jerry?s story and to have helped facilitate his placement there.
The events at which Jerry spoke were annual National Character and Leadership Symposiums that the Academy hosts. The (new) Academy superintendent last year, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, gave high praise to Jerry on the symposium?s final day, exclaiming to all attendees, ?Jerry was great! Everyone loved him!?
When Jerry moved to Florida, we weren?t in much contact. Then just a month ago, Patti Miller (a friend in Fairfield, not a relative) told me that Jerry was in hospice. I immediately phoned him. In the course of our conversation, I said to Jerry, ?All the fighter pilots in the sky are looking down on you with pride for your service [as a combat pilot] in World War II and for helping bring TM to the aid of so many veterans since then.?
I paused for a moment then, thinking about the mystery of the passage that we call death. I then said to Jerry, ?I wonder what the transition is like.? What was his reply? ?I?ll email you.?
I?ve been eagerly awaiting his email ever since!
? John C. Miller, Fairfield