Honoring Lillian Yonally, WWII Pilot
In celebration of Women’s History Month, I’d like to introduce a woman who helped the U.S. Air Force answer the question “Should women be flying planes and bombers during WWII?”
Lillian Yonally inspires me with her strength, a strength that comes through in her bearing, her eye contact, her every word and gesture. She is a straight-talker who enjoys sharing tales of her experience as a WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilot) in World War II with the same objective determination that drove her to pursue that Air Force pilot duty back in the 1930s.
This is a woman who never gives up, and wants to encourage others to do the same.
Of the many stories she told me about her experiences, I was most struck by two: the fear she discounted as she decided to trust her plane to keep her safe, as live ammunition was fired at the targets she pulled a mere 30 feet behind her. I found myself wondering if I would have the guts to continue flying as shells exploded all around me! The other thing that amazed me was the fact that she and the other WASPs would deliver damaged/malfunctioning planes to their destinations after they were repaired with no subsequent testing.
Lillian married, raised a family, and served her country with dedication and purpose. And now she continues on, telling her story and firing others up. As she says, "Believe in yourself and in a higher power to look after you." And, in her 10th decade, she continues to exemplify the purposeful life. What an inspiration!
She turned 111 on May 15, making her one of the oldest people in the world.
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