JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
Gerald “Gerry” Teldon was born in the Bronx, New York, and in 1944 he hoped to become a pilot.
Originally, it seemed like his dream of becoming a Naval Air Force pilot wasn’t meant to come true. It was refused twice.
“I couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than landing with an airplane on a boat going up and down in the ocean,” he said.
Teldon went through the interview process for the Navy and was told he met all the requirements, but they couldn’t accept it.
This did not discourage him. He walked across the street to the US Army Air Corps recruiter.
He again met all requirements and was sent for examination by a doctor, who said that Teldon’s eardrums appeared to be perforated, possibly from childhood, and that he would be sensitive to pressure changes due to elevation changes.
Teldon eventually found a way around this obstacle and became a fighter pilot.
He flew P-47 Thunderbolts in World War II over Italy and the Balkans with the Twelfth Air Force’s 79th Fighter Group, 85th and 87th Fighter Squadrons, and served honorably released in 1946, without fanfare or recognition.
Five years later, he was recalled to flight during the Korean War.
On July 29, 2022, Teldon was finally recognized for his heroic service in a ceremony at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life & Learning in San Antonio.
“Lieutenant. Teldon flew 62 combat missions over a two-year period in the European theater and while he should have been recognized for his service when he was honorably discharged, I am grateful that he is finally getting that recognition in front of so many friends and family,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Stein, commanding officer of the 502nd Operations Support Squadron, who pinned the Teldon Air Medal.
“These medals are an important reminder of the sacrifices Teldon, and so many others like him, have made in the cause of freedom and liberty,” Stein said. “I’m very humbled and honored to be able to contribute a little to finally giving him the medals he so richly deserves after all these years.”
Chaplain (Maj.) Mendy Stern, a Jewish chaplain at Joint Base San Antonio, was also on hand to recognize Teldon.
“It is an honor for me to participate in the recognition and honor of a hero, a member of the greatest generation who has answered the call to serve our nation in time of need,” Stern said. , chaplain of the 106th Signals Brigade. “Teldon’s valiant actions are an inspiration to me as a fellow Jew and soldier, and I will share them more as I continue to serve in our armed forces defending the delicate freedoms we cherish.”
Teldon’s five grandchildren were also there to pin additional medals for the American Campaign, European-African-Middle East Campaign, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Distinguished Unit Ribbon.
During the ceremony, Teldon recalled growing up with his sister, Phyllis, and his parents, Henry and Dorothy. Her father was a wealthy man who moved his family from an apartment in the Bronx to a house on Long Island, where the wealthiest people lived. But after three years, the family was left homeless and penniless, he said.
His family had to move to someone’s back porch, and he and his dad shared a bed while his mom and sister shared another. Teldon said that when he was 15, he decided he wanted to fly.
“I won a prize for selling the most Newsday newspaper subscriptions,” he said. “The prize was to fly around New York. I was so amazed and excited to fly around the city that I decided I wanted to be a pilot.
Teldon’s family members were delighted to see him finally recognized.
“We are proud of his service to our country and of preserving democracy in such a courageous and exemplary manner,” said his eldest son, Rabbi Tuvia Teldon. “This ceremony gives us the opportunity to express our thanks to him, to our military and to Almighty God for keeping him alive during the war and today.”
The veteran himself was also overjoyed on the occasion.
“I’m not an emotional person, but I’m so grateful to my family for wanting to know more about me to know who I was and who led me to be who I am today,” said l elder Teldon. On August 28, Teldon will celebrate its 98th birthday.