As many of you know, I have spent a great deal of my professional career in youth ministry. Several years ago, I had a kid in my group named James Yon. James has always had a zest for life. Everything he does, he goes full out, full on, head first, and eyes closed. He was always the greatest kid to have on youth trips and events, because James always brought the happy with him. You didn’t have to worry about an event being boring. If James was there, it didn’t matter what you were doing, it was going to be an adventure. Several years ago James joined the Marine Corp to help defend our country. Needless to say, I was worried about him. How would he do? Would he be okay? I just loved the guy so much, I couldn’t bear to think about something bad happening to him. I knew he would be brave. There was no doubt about that.
Last year came the news from Afghanistan that James had been injured in the act of duty. I was relieved to hear that, overall, he was fine. He received two medals – the Purple Heart and the Achievement Medal. I would like to share with you the letter he received from the Department of the Navy that was presented to him with the Achievement Medal.
Department of the Navy:
This is to certify that the Secretary of the Navy has awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat Valor
To: Lance Corporal James M. Yon United States Marine Corps
For: Heroic service in the superior performance of duties while serving as heavy machine gunner, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, Regimental Combat Team 3, Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, from May to November 2009 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
- Lance Corporal Yon proved to be courageous and undeterred by heavy and accurate enemy fire in more than 100 hours of enemy contact. He expertly returned fire in several enemy engagements as rounds impacted his turret and rockets exploded over his head. His ability to manipulate and employ his weapon system was that of a seasoned and skilled practitioner.
- Lance Corporal Yon was directly responsible for the destruction of four enemy fighting positions as well as two enemy compounds that he marked with his weapon, allowing air assets to accurately engage. Beyond the battlefield, he served as the lay leader for his platoon, making himself available to all marines and actively sought to provide spiritual guidance during difficult times.
- Lance Corporal Yon’s initiative, perseverance, and total dedication to duty reflected credit upon him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval service.
Given this 5th day of February 2010
Brigadier General, U.S. Marine Corps
Task Force Leatherneck
Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan
I think the phrase in the letter that meant the most to me was, “Beyond the battlefield, (Lance Corporal Yon) served as the lay leader for his platoon, making himself available to all marines and actively sought to provide spiritual guidance during difficult times.” This means that James’ Christian faith was evident and active throughout his ordeal in Afghanistan and that he purposefully reached out to fellow marines with the gospel and offered them counsel and prayer. In fact, his faith was so evident, that mention of it was made in the presentation of his Achievement Medal. Pretty neat.
Thank James. Thanks for being a good friend. Thanks for serving your country. But more importantly, thank you for maintaining the faith in Jesus Christ that brought you from darkness and into light. The Gospel is Sacrosanct.