LDS POW Ronald Young, Jr.
Finding Comfort When “Our Worst Fears Are Realized”

by Maurine Proctor

A recently donated red, white and blue wreath sits on the door of a home in Lithia Springs, Georgia and suddenly yellow ribbons are blooming everywhere on mailboxes and trees since Chief Warrant Officer Ronald D. Young, Jr, 26 was captured by the Iraqis Monday morning.

His Apache Longbow helicopter went down in fierce fighting over Karbala 50 miles southwest of Baghdad.  Iraqis claim that farmers’ fire shot down the Apache, but the Army believes that the helicopter may have had mechanical difficulties.

Two attempts were made to rescue the pilots, but the fire was so heavy-“like a hornet’s nest” that they were unable to get them.  The downed pilots eluded capture for several hours, but were finally caught by jubilant Iraqis.

At home, Kaye Young, Ron’s mother had had a tormented Sunday night, knowing that his regiment had been involved in a thick barrage of anti-aircraft fighting for three hours. A CNN reporter was embedded with the unit and was giving frequent reports.

 “I knew Ron was in it,” she said.  “Just about every helicopter had taken fire and was hit.  When the fighting was over, I had this feeling that something was wrong.  I laid in bed and started to pray. About midnight, all of a sudden this feeling came over me, that was so profound, and I felt like Ron was right there with me.  He just wrapped himself around me. When he was an infant, he had the sweetest aroma, and mentally, I could smell that. 

“The Spirit was so strong and comforting.  I felt joy and relief,” said Kaye.  “Sometimes you hear about feeling someone’s spirit and they are dead.  I wondered, ‘is this coming to me because he’s gone, or does it mean he’s all right?'”

She slept fitfully through the night and awoke at 5:15 to see on the television images of downed helicopter with bat wings on the side. Two helmets lay on the ground and Iraqis were dancing near them.  Kaye knew that Ron’s helicopter sported a vampire-a sign that they come out at night, and that the injured Apache had to be one of the six in his unit of the Fourth Brigade, First Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood, Texas.

At 7:00, Ron’s father, Ronald Young, Sr. came home from his job on the CSX railway and through the morning a frantic Kaye talked with her two daughters on the phone.  Daughter, Kelly Lively, suggested that the comforting feeling from the Spirit may be “preparing you for what might happen.”

The phone call was interrupted with a gasp from Kaye when the military arrived at the door bearing the bad news that Ron was missing in action. “It was the hardest thing in the world,” said Kaye. “I was shaking all over.  My whole world fell apart. I just felt like I couldn’t stand it.”

Kelly lives about 45 minutes away, and immediately she got in the car to drive to her parents’ home.  “I thought, if the army has shown up, Ron’s gone.  I just kept praying and praying, but in my heart I didn’t feel he was dead.  He’s out there, and he’ll get away, I thought.”

Members of the Church and other friends had been calling all morning long, and within minutes people started arriving, until nearly 60 people were at the house. “Mom and Dad were given blessings,” said Kelly, “and there was just a calmness that came over everybody.”

It was the beginning of an outpouring of love, support and prayers that has been sustaining.  “We feel these prayers,” said Kaye. 

People have brought food, flowers and gifts.  The Youngs said they wanted a larger American flag to fly in their yard, and within hours the local fire department had not only brought the flag but had erected a 12-foot flag pole. In the wet cement at its base, a family friend wrote, “United We Stand, CWO2 Ron Young, POW 3-24-03.” Another man brought a POW flag.

People have arrived at the Youngs’ home to pray with them.  “We’ve prayed with the Catholics, the Church of God, the Baptists,” said Kaye. Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue called to comfort the family, and then called back to ask if he could say a prayer for them, which he did over the speaker phone at the home while the family listened.

T-shirts have been created and donated.  Yellow ribbons deck the courthouse.  Calls have come from every state and all over the world.  Friends have put Ron’s name on the prayer roll of several temples.

On Tuesday alone 188 calls came to the Young home. They represent the news media, friends, churches, even the telephone company saying that a pole had been hit in their area, and they wanted to make sure their telephone didn’t go out.  

In the myriad of media interviews that have followed Ron’s capture, the Youngs have reiterated that it is their faith that sustains them.  “We are doing well because of all the prayers,” they have said.

Dr. Phil’s television show called and wanted to fly the Youngs to appear to discuss their feelings about people protesting the war.  Kaye said, “Protests hurt us because our sons and daughters are already there.  The decision to go to war has been made and we need to fall in line and stand behind them.”

Ron Young wanted to be a pilot since he was five years old, a decision from which he never wavered.  His grandmother lived near the airport and he loved to watch the planes.  A young man with a determined, focused personality, “he is good at everything he sets out to do, ” said his mother. “He is meticulous.  I first noticed this when he was a little boy.  At Christmas time, he would rebox up his presents, carefully take them upstairs and put them in his closet.  He always told us, ‘I don’t like stuff,’ and we joked when we saw pictures of him in Kuwait with 18 guys in a little tent, that now he had to live with a lot of stuff.”

On the unit’s website, the Youngs noticed that Ron had clippers and was cutting everybody’s hair which Kaye enjoyed since she is a hair dresser. 

Ron loves sports.  He was an Eagle Scout.  “He laughs all the time.  He hugs everybody.  When he puts his arms around you and hugs you, you think he’s going to break you in half,” said Kaye of her 6 foot 4 inch son.

Ron was a graduate of Douglas County High School in Douglasville, Georgia and then studied mechanical engineering at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Georgia.  He joined the army to learn to fly and fulfill his lifelong passion.

Kelly said, “After 9/11, he thought he was going to Afghanistan.  I asked him how he felt about that, and he said he was very proud to serve his country.”  Afghanistan didn’t happen for Ron, but Iraq did.

This Sunday, March 30, Ron’s Lithia Springs Ward is going to be fasting for him and for all the soldiers in Iraq.  Friends from wards in several states are joining, and in a showing of unity, several other churches in the Lithia Springs area are fasting as well.  This has been a time of rallying with faith around an LDS boy and his companion David Williams held by Iraq.

“It’s always been my worst case scenario to have someone be a prisoner of war,” said Kaye, “but sometimes we have to face our worst fears.  We are not alone in this, and I hope that Ron knows he is not alone.  I hope he can feel the Spirit.”

2003 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.