WAHOO – Reginald Yates of Ashland was recognized as the Saunders County Veteran of the Month for his many years of service as an Air Force pilot during the Korean War and nine years in the Air National Guard.
Yates received a Certificate of Appreciation for service in the Armed Forces of the United States of America from Saunders County Veterans Service Officer Mary Pace during the Saunders County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday.
Yates said his love of flying was born well before he entered the Air Force. Growing up in Creston, Iowa, he worked during the summer at the local airport, where they paid him in flying lessons rather than money. He received his pilot’s license at the age of 16, making him the youngest licensed pilot in Iowa at the time, he said.
Three years later, Yates joined the National Guard right after high school. In 1949 while attending Drake University in Des Moines, he joined the Air Force and because he was already a licensed pilot, he was sent to Pope Air Force Base in Fayetteville, N.C. to fly planes. He flew P-51 fighter planes, AT-6 training planes and C-46 transport planes as he trained for potential missions.
He was a management analyst as a pilot, flying P-51 Mustangs, F84 Thunder jets and F86 Sabres, to name a few. He was in charge of making sure everything was being done correctly on the aircraft, he said.
Yates was then assigned to the 124th Fighter Squadron during the Korean Conflict.
After serving three years in the Air Force, Yates spent nine years in the Air National Guard, where he switched from pilot to finance.
He received an honorable discharge with the rank of sergeant in 1958.
After his active duty service in the Air Force, Yates returned to college and later worked for Iowa Power and Light. After taking a job at Western Electric in Omaha in 1959, he moved to Ashland, where he still lives. He retired from Western Electric in 1989.
Yates continued to fly as a private pilot over the years, and still has his license, although he currently can’t fly due to medical reasons. He last flew about seven years ago.
Yates was a member of the Ashland-Greenwood Board of Education for 24 years, and had the unique experience of handing all three of his children their high school diploma during graduation ceremonies.
As a member of the Sesostris Shrine and a Master Mason in Comet Lodge 229 for over 60 years, Yates played the saxophone and clarinet in the Shrine Dance Band for many years.
He is also an active member of the Ashland Methodist Church and a member of the American Legion Post 129 of Ashland. American Legion Post 129 Adjutant Boyd Yochum nominated Yates for the Veteran of the Month award.
The certificate, signed by Supervisor Chairperson Doris Karloff and Pace, states: “The Saunders County Supervisors wish to recognize your military service to the United States of America. Throughout our Nation’s history, it is the efforts of men and women such as yourself that have provided the freedoms we, as Americans, dearly enjoy today. Please accept our deepest gratitude and appreciation. Let us never forget your demonstrated sacrifice, service, love and commitment to your county.”
Along with the entire county board, District 1 Supervisor Dave Lutton, who represents the Ashland area, also joined in congratulating Yates.