Q & A with Colonel Terry Yon
NAME: Colonel Terry Yon, USA (Retired)
TITLE: Public Relations Officer, Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum
MARRIED: Yes, 15 years
CHILDREN: Between my wife and me we have 5 children and 9 grandchildren
YEARS IN BREVARD: 16 years, since I retired from the U.S. Army in 1996
What is the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum?
The Warbird Museum is dedicated to preserving the memory of great vintage warbirds and the pilots and crew that made them famous. We were established in 1977 as a 501c3 not-for-profit educational museum by just eleven individuals who had a passion for vintage warbirds. Today, we have nearly 1,500 members and have grown to three display hangars and two separate museums. We have aircraft from the WWI era to modern military aircraft and displays. The Valiant Air Command is well known for its annual Tico Warbird Airshow, which draws thousands of visitors in March of each year to the Space Coast. We are also very well known for our restoration efforts. Over the years we have restored many warbirds to both flying and exhibition condition. For more information about the museum please go to www.vacwarbirds.org.
What is a “typical” day like for you?
As Public Relations Officer, there is no “typical” day. That is probably why I really enjoy what I do. I may be meeting a tour group, talking to visitors about our exhibits, answering lots of emails about the museum, talking to local groups about what we have to offer, coordinating a variety of special events, training new tour guides, working with our staff on our next Open House or Fly-In, working with a variety of TV, radio and print media representatives, or any number of other events.
What do you love about your job?
First, what may not be well known is that 99 percent of the positions we have at the museum are volunteer. We have only 5 part-time, paid positions. So my job – along with that of hundreds of others that make our museum a part of the rich fabric that makes up all that the Space Coast has to offer – is strictly a labor of love and passion for vintage warbirds. We all want to educate the public about our exhibits and displays and help pass along the history that we protect and preserve.
What is the biggest challenge?
Like all 501c3’s, it’s funding! While our membership helps sustain us and admissions and our airshow contribute greatly to our overhead, funding vintage warbirds (particularly those that fly) is an extremely expensive proposition. There are building expenses, insurance expenses, maintenance expenses, procurement expenses, overhead expenses, and much, much more. We have done very well over 35+ years but it’s always a struggle that keeps our leadership awake at night and constantly striving to come up with new, innovative ways to attract visitors to Brevard County and our museum.
What are you listening to on your iPod right now?
Well at least I have one! It’s a great relaxation device for me. I have an eclectic taste in music from New Age, Enya and Engima, to the great oldies of the 60’s, and I grew up in a house that played lots of Big Band music from the 40’s so I have always enjoyed that. I also love to listen to the old radio shows and have loaded up shows like “Gunsmoke,” “Have Gun Will Travel,” “Suspense Theater,” “Phillip Marlow,” “Gangbusters,” “The Whistler,” and many others. Finally, I have a collection of audio books that I can never seem to get to, but they range from historical novels to modern day mysteries.
What do you wish you had more time for now?
While my wife and I go on a cruise about once a year and have traveled quite a lot when we were government employees, I really wish we had more time to travel for pure enjoyment. Like a lot of things, I guess it’s just a matter of “making” the time, but we always seem to have something going locally.
What would you tell the younger version of you to do differently?
That’s tricky. I was in the military for 30 years and looking back it all seemed to have passed very quickly. I was quite serious as a young aviation officer (as you needed to be) but going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark, along with field exercises and deployments, makes it very difficult at times to balance the needs of your family. I guess I would try and do a better job of balancing what we used to call “the needs of the Service” with the needs of my family.
What is one thing you’ve dreamed of doing but haven’t yet?
Again, probably involves traveling. My wife and I have a list of places we want to go. We definitely would love to get out to the Pacific and visit exotic places like Thailand, Hong Kong Singapore and Australia. We have also read about the river cruises in Europe and think that would be fun and finally, we would love to do an Alaskan cruise as well . . . so much to do and so little time!
Who do you admire and why?
Well, since I have become involved with the Valiant Air Command I have learned so much about great American aviators, who did extraordinary things and whose memory should never be forgotten. Individuals like Robin Old, Jimmy Doolittle, Claire Chennault, Benjamin O. Davis, Bill Rankin, Bruce Crandall, Robert Morgan, Richard Bong and so many others.
If you could trade places with any other person for a week (famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional) who would it be?
Wow, talk about an open question! Let’s see anyone, anytime, anywhere? Well, again, considering my current passion for history, I have long been fascinated with General Dwight David Eisenhower. He was such a fantastic leader, who had to balance so many competing interests and personalities and be both a soldier and diplomat to win the European War. I would enjoy just a few hours to understand his mind, how it worked and the decision matrix he went through in some of his difficult wartime dilemmas.