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'Top Gun: Maverick' screening featuring triple ace fighter pilot Col. Bud Anderson, raises funds for aspiring pilots

In attendance at the sold-out screening in Auburn were 24 veteran fighter pilots who got to watch a special message from the movie's star, Tom Cruise.

AUBURN, Calif. — As movie theaters across the nation filled over the weekend with viewers lining up to see Tom Cruise's newest, highest-grossing film, "Top Gun: Maverick," one screening of the movie in Auburn, attended by triple ace fighter pilot Colonel Bud Anderson raised funds for a local foundation.

The screening started with a satellite greeting from the movie's star, Tom Cruise. Cruise addressed the sold-out theater of 150 attendees including 24 veteran fighter pilots.

The event raised funds for the Auburn Aviators Association Endowment Fund, which offers scholarships and mentoring programs meant to educate youth and young adults about aviation professions.

“A lot of us saw the original Top Gun 30 some years ago," said Don Wolfe, Scholarship director for the Auburn Aviation Association. "We were waiting on this sequel and to have the triple ace, Col. Bud Anderson here, over 100 years old is just awesome.”

While the charitable aspect of watching the screening was meaningful for attendees, the movie itself also sparked emotions.

“I’m still shaking from the realism of the movie so I think it’s very realistic," Tim Pinkney, a retired U.S. Navy Aviator said.

With the film's premiere falling just days before Memorial Day, some in attendance remembered their fallen colleagues during realistic scenes in the movie. 

"We lost 39 of our 100 airplanes," said Tom Dwelle, a retired Air Force Pilot. "33 guys dead and we got three of them back. So to relive that, I was in tears, pretty much, a lot of the movie."

For Air Force Fighter Pilot Jim Anderson, watching the premiere alongside his father, Col. Anderson, was nostalgic and somber.

"I'm glad they had the P51 in there because then it made me think of dad and all the stuff that he did, you know, back in the day," Jim said. "I'm named after two guys who were killed, it means a lot to me, I think about them, especially at this time of the year."

MORE ABOUT COL. ANDERSON:   Auburn man, WWII veteran celebrates 100th birthday


Watch More from ABC10: Remembering the meaning of Memorial Day

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