Monday, November 8, 2010

His Star Has Turned From Blue to Gold

Two days after U.S. Army Specialist James “Chad” Young of Rochester was killed in Afghanistan, his family continued to struggle with the shock of his death.

“You see this every day on TV, but it doesn’t hit home until it hits your house,” Young’s brother, Steven Baptist, said through tears while gathered with other family members at his Auburn home Friday afternoon.

“I never would have thought it would be Chad.”

Young, a 25-year-old Glenwood High School graduate, was fatally wounded when insurgents attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device Wednesday in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense.

He was assigned to the 863rd Engineer Battalion. It was his second tour in Afghanistan.

Young’s family was notified of his death Wednesday, less than two weeks after he had been home for a 15-day leave.

Relatives said Friday they knew Young as a dependable brother, uncle and a friend with a playful streak. They also remembered him as a soldier who accepted his duty head-on.

Young is the son of Brett and Jerry Young of Rochester. His parents and Young’s sister, Katie Robbins, traveled to Dover Air Force Base, Del., Thursday night for the arrival of Young’s body.

Steven Baptist is Chad Young’s older brother by about 10 years. They share the same mother.

Steven Baptist’s two brothers on his father’s side, Bohdon and Chase Baptist, said though Chad Young was not related to them by blood, they considered him family.

“The four of us, we always looked at ourselves as real brothers,” Bohdon Baptist of Auburn said. “We just want Chad remembered. He was a great person. He led a great life so all of his family could live in a free world.”

Chad Young was the baby of the group, but he was the one they looked up to, and not just because of his 6-foot-4 frame.

“He’s the greatest guy,” Bohdon Baptist said.

Young grew up in the Rochester area and attended Ball-Chatham schools, graduating from Glenwood High School in 2003.

Jim Mlinar, an industrial technology teacher at Glenwood High School, had Young in two of his classes. Mlinar recalled him as a tall, lanky kid with a great sense of humor.

“He was just somebody you were happy to see everyday,” he said.

Pirate jokes

Mlinar said Young used to come to class and tell the same pirate joke everyday: “What was the pirate’s favorite letter of the alphabet? Rrrr.”

“After several weeks of that, I started coming up with pirate jokes, like ‘Why couldn’t the pirate get into the movie? Because it was rated Rrrr.’

“For years after that, students were always coming up to me and asking for pirate jokes and Chad’s the person that started that,” he said.

Young was a smart student, Mlinar said, one he described as goofy but always behaved.

“I always think that a student like that, whether they know it or not, is a good role model because they’re not causing problems,” he said. “They’re a leader without knowing they’re a leader.”

Steven Baptist said Young’s high school years were when the two of them became close.

He and other relatives burst into laughter when they recalled Young’s punk style of dress as a teenager, which included cut-off, shredded clothing and plenty of piercings.

“He made his own clothes,” Steven Baptist said.

And though his style drastically changed after he entered the military, Young remained the same fun-loving person, his relatives said.

Young joined the Army in 2004. He served in Korea before deploying to Afghanistan for the first time. He returned in late 2007.

“After he went on his first tour, he went on inactive reserve status and it was a year. And then, he was called back to the active Army,” said Young’s girlfriend, Maria Millburg of Springfield.

Second tour started in June

Young arrived in Afghanistan for the second time in early June.

He was trained as a combat engineer and parts of his deployments were spent in a special route-clearance vehicle called a Husky that would travel in front of a convoy and detonate or defuse land mines, explosives or other obstructions in the road, Millburg said.

“If you heard him talk about it, it was no big deal,” Steven Baptist said.

“He was always the one telling everybody else it was going to be OK,” Millburg said.

Young surprised Millburg and his mother when he returned home for leave earlier than expected Oct. 10.

From then until Oct. 25, Young visited friends and family members, including his three nieces and nephew. He also played some poker, one of his favorite pastimes.

Young returned to his forward operating base in Afghanistan Oct. 29. He was killed five days later.

“I’m just glad we all got to see him before it happened,” Steven Baptist said.

Young’s relatives say they are most proud of his bravery and the way he touched others’ lives, something demonstrated by a memorial Facebook page for Young.

“I’m just glad he didn’t go unrecognized,” Bohdon Baptist said.

Amanda Reavy can be reached at 788-1525.

Fourth area soldier killed in three months

Specialist James “Chad” Young, 25, of Rochester is the fourth soldier with central Illinois ties to die in Afghanistan in less than four months.

Staff Sgt. Josh Powell, 25, of Pleasant Plains was among nine service members who died Sept. 21 in a helicopter crash during combat operations in Zabul Province, Afghanistan. It was his third deployment and second stint in Afghanistan. He was a 2003 graduate of Pleasant Plains High School.

Sgt. Matthew W. Weikert, 29, of Jacksonville was killed July 17 when his unit was attacked by an improvised explosive device. Weikert was a 2000 graduate of Jacksonville High School and had been deployed to Iraq four times before being sent to Afghanistan.

Sgt. Donald “Rocky” Edgerton, 33, a 1995 Riverton High School graduate, died July 10 — the day after his birthday — in another IED attack. Edgerton joined the Army at age 30 after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The State Journal-Register


Mike Golch said...

Rest In Peace,Chad your tour is done.

Anonymous said...

may he rest peacefully in Gods arms, I pray for his family..