Captain Jerry Yellin was a fighter pilot who enlisted to defend his country after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He flew the last mission of World War II. Today, Yellin is on the front lines of an educational campaign about peace and compassion and the ravages of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Immokalee Foundation recently sponsored Yellin’s visit to Immokalee and a presentation to students by this man who has been through several wars: a military one as well as a fight against severe PTSD and the grief of becoming a widower after a 65-year marriage. His emotional challenges – and then his recovery – were also affected by his son’s move to Japan and marriage to a Japanese woman in the 1980s. This “opened his heart to the possibility of acceptance and love,” according to a documentary being produced about Yellin, titled “Last Man Standing.”
“It was an absolute honor to have Captain Jerry Yellin take time to speak to our high school students,” said The Immokalee Foundation Program Services Director Noemi Perez. “As he spoke to the group, each student was captivated by every story he shared with them. He gave the students words of wisdom, and many students met with him after the presentation to thank him for his time and service.”
Students were impressed and inspired by Yellin’s stated goal, “to help heal the wounds of war and dissolve barriers and misunderstandings that bring us to the point of destroying ourselves.” They also were honored to be in the presence of a man of grace who played such a part in the nation’s history.
“There’s a lot of dignity with Mr. Yellin – you can tell he has dignity,” said Diego Villalobos-Perez, an Immokalee High School student. “That is the level of respect you try to reach from people, but it’s so hard to get. He has it! Our class even wrote him a thank you letter.”
The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and post-secondary preparation and support, mentoring and tutoring, opportunities for broadening experiences, and life skills development leading to economic independence.
To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, volunteering as a career panel speaker or host, becoming a mentor, making a donation, including the foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.
The Immokalee Bulletin is published every Thursday.