Honoring the Legacy of Lenard Yates

Rancho Cordova, CA  |  Story and photos by Shaunna Boyd
  Share this pic with friends!

Michael Hughes, Adjutant of Lenard Yates American Legion Post 709, presents a certificate of recognition to Valerie Yates, in honor of her father’s many years of service.

  Share this pic with friends!

Two portraits of Lenard Yates displayed before and after his years of service at the American Legion Veterans' Memorial Hall ceremony.

American Legion Celebrates WWII Tuskegee Airman

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) - On April 28, 2019, members of the Lenard Yates American Legion Post 709 hosted their five-year anniversary celebration. Michael Hughes, CEO of Mather Veterans Memorial Hall and president of the George S. “Spanky” Roberts chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Association, founded Lenard Yates Post 709 in 2014 after his dear friend, Lenard Yates, passed away in 2013 at the age of 87.

Yates was an original member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps (later known as the U.S. Air Force). The Tuskegee Program trained pilots, navigators, mechanics, and other maintenance and support staff at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama.

Yates was born in Alabama in 1926. After high school, he entered the Tuskegee Institute and enlisted in the reserve unit of the U.S. Army Air Corps ROTC 2164, where he served from 1943 until 1945. He was a Certified Airplane Maintenance Technician and received his pilot’s license in 1944.

From 1945 until 1975, Yates served as a Supply Specialist in the United States Air Force. During his service, he was promoted to the rank of Chief Master Sergeant and was assigned to various Air Bases around the world, including Germany, England, France, Spain, Sweden, Greece, Egypt, Libya, Thailand, and Japan.

Yates retired from active and reserve duty in 1975, after serving for more than 30 years. In 1976, Yates began working with the Northrop Aircraft Corporation as an Inventory Management Specialist, providing training to Royal Saudi Air Force personnel. He later worked for McDonnell Douglas Services where he coordinated all training phases for Royal Saudi Air Force trainees. He retired in 1981.

Hughes, Adjutant of Post 709, said he wanted to dedicate the post to Yates because of their many years of friendship and to honor Yates’ legacy as one of the original Tuskegee Airmen.

Before the founding of Lenard Yates Post 709, there was no American Legion post in Rancho Cordova. One of the missions of Post 709 is to assist local veterans in the area. Hughes said that Rancho Cordova has a large population of homeless veterans: “They came home with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] or TBI [traumatic brain injury], and they’re just not getting help. They medicate themselves on drugs and alcohol.”

Post 709 runs an outreach program for homeless veterans. “If they need a place to stay, or food, or something like that, we help them with that,” said Hughes. Post 709 also helps veterans find jobs and connects them to other resources that can help them get back on their feet.

Post 709 meets in a Volunteers of America building at 10618 Schirra Ave. in Mather, CA, where the five-year celebration event took place. Present at the celebration were members of Yates’ family, local veterans, and members of the George S. “Spanky” Roberts chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Association.

Don Nottoli, Sacramento County District 5 Supervisor, spoke at the event and expressed his appreciation for Yates and all of the Tuskegee Airmen for “their important role in the defense of this country.” Nottoli also recognized the members of Post 709 and their families for their “honorable service to our country.”

Valerie Talley, Yates’ daughter, said it means so much to her that the post is named after her father. “I am honored,” she said. “I am just proud — proud of him, and proud of the life he honored me with. I know he would just be smiling right now about this.… He would think this is a hoot.”

Michael Hughes, Adjutant of Lenard Yates American Legion Post 709, presents a certificate of recognition to Valerie Yates, in honor of her father’s many years of service. Two portraits of Lenard Yates displayed before and after his years of service at the American Legion VeteransMembers of Lenard Yates’ family were recognized by the George S. “Spanky” Roberts chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Association, Sacramento County District 5 Supervisor Don Nottoli, and the Lenard Yates American Legion Post 709.