Tribute to James Yon

James, in his dressed blues, with his wife Laura

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

The view from inside James' turret

The view from inside Jame's turret

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
L.D. Nicholson
Brigadier General, U.S. Marine Corps
Commanding General,
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.

5 thoughts on “Tribute to James Yon

  1. Tim, As James’ father and mother, Mary and I would like to thank you for the tribute to him. I never tire of reading the letter of commendation to him for that medal, BUT, like you, the greatest thing James could ever do there was to provide spiritual guidance to all those around him, even to his superior officers. This is not just a tribute to James, but to all those who have had an influence on his life and guidance to him to point him in the direction in which he has taken. So, I thank you, Mike Gordon, Steven Laughridge and so many others for where James stands today. Mary and I love each one of you so much.


  2. As a “military brat” I thank you James for your unwavering service to this country. As a sister in Christ I thank you for your enduring service in His Kingdom work. May God bless you and your family is all you do!

    Thank you Tim for posting this!


  3. Tim, thanks for the encouraging post here. I know so many Citadel grads who went into the service not knowing how to bring their belief in Jesus to bear. LCpl Yon’s commendation is a great testimony to the power of the Gospel in the lives of people who are not ‘professional Christians’.


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