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Losing Our Greatest Generation

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WWII vet Jimmy Weldon passed away at age 99

Valley veteran Jimmy Weldon “flew west”  last week, just two months shy of his 100th birthday.

The WWII sergeant was one of what newscaster Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation,”  those Americans who were born during the Depression and fought in the second world war.

That generation is now dying out, with 234 vets estimated to be passing away every day. The number of living WWII veterans is expected to fall below 50,000 by 2028, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The local Wings Over Wendy’s aviation veterans group was started in 2001 by Fred “Crash”  Blechman. In 2002, 40 of the 45 members were WWII vets. Today, about 14 are still active, according to the group’s leader, Ed Reynolds.

They include 101-year-old Marty Cohen,  almost 101-year-old Ethel Margolin, Joe Weber, and Barney Leone, famous for hoisting the  flag on Iwo Jima.

Until recently, Weldon was also an active member of the organization. 

He was born in 1923 and joined the army in 1943 with the 1270th engineer combat battalion. Under the command of General George Patton, Weldon was part of the squad that liberated the Buchenwald Death Camp.

He never forgot the camp  survivors thanking them for their service, and his patriotism was fueled by the experience. 

 He was famous for leading groups in the salute to the American flag, and for rousing performances of “God Bless America.” He gave an emotional dissertation on “Old Glory” at the dedication of the Calabasas Veterans Garden in 2019.

Weldon had the voice for it. He was a actor, ventriloquist and television host, best known as the voice of Yakky Doodle, a cartoon character in the Yogi  Bear Show.   

Weldon was honored as Chaplain Emeritus at the American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood. Other Wings Over Wendy’s members have also been honored for their service. 

Margolin, Leone and Bill Dillon were all honored at Dodger Stadium. Oscar Stein has been profiled in the Holocaust Museum, and Leone was profiled in the Reagan Library’s “Secrets of WWII” exhibit in 2022.

Tom Brokaw said in his book, “I began to reflect on the wonders of these ordinary people whose lives were laced with the markings of greatness.” 

Weldon will be honored one last time at a memorial service on Saturday, September 23, which would have been his 100th birthday. The public is invited to attend.

Services will begin at 10 am at the American Legion Hollywood Post, 2035 Highland Avenue.

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