Lt. Col. Jeri Truesdell
Truesdell with California wing members (from left) Cadet Senior Airman Nicole Solorio, Cadet Tech. Sgt. Nicolle Bustos, (from right) Col. Jon Stokes, 1st Lt. Jenny Lynn Burnett and Cadet Capt. Amanda Petty. The cadets are members of Capt. Jay Weinsoff Cadet Squadron 3. Stokes is California Wing commander; Burnett is the wing’s personnel officer.
Truesdell prepares for takeoff with Burnett.
Truesdell takes flight
Photos by Capt. Alan Yudkowsky
Jeri Truesdell was a girl with a dream of flying – an unusual aspiration for a young lady in 1935. She was determined to achieve her goal it, so she scraped together the $11 per hour required for flying lesson, a princely sum during the Depression, and she took to the skies.
It took her four years, but in 1939 she finally earned her license, then joined the Chicago Flying Girls Club.
Once World War II started, she wanted to serve.
But there was no mechanism for women to fly in the military, so she joined the fledgling Civil Air Patrol. She served in CAP in Chicago from 1942-1944, when she joined the U.S. Navy Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) program, where she remained for the duration of the war.
Truesdell continued to work in aviation throughout her life until retirement. Even now, at 100, she still loves flying.
Her eligibility for CAP’s Congressional Gold Medal was confirmed by the organization’s national historian Aug. 4.
On Sept. 22, to honor her service to the nation and to CAP, she was awarded lifetime membership, promoted to lieutenant colonel and given an Exceptional Service Award at a ceremony at Los Angeles’ Van Nuys Airport.
"I am truly blessed to have been a member of the Civil Air Patrol and am thrilled to be back after all these years" she said.
As a newly minted lifetime member, Truesdell donned her flight suit and took a ride in CAP Cessna with 1st Lt. Jenny Lynn Burnett, California Wing personnel officer, at the controls.
"It was an honor to celebrate Jeri's achievements in aviation both in and out of CAP and to see her take her first flight in almost 70 years in a CAP aircraft," said Col. Jon Stokes, wing commander.
"Jeri is an inspiration to all of us, but especially our cadets," Stokes said.