Sen. McConnell honors 1st Lt. Yates

1st Lt. Eric Yates

Cameron Koch

Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., honored one of WKU’s own, 1st Lt. Eric Yates, during a senate session on Thursday.

Yates was in WKU’s ROTC program and was later deployed to Afghanistan, where he was killed in action in September 2010. A granite panel depicting Yates and 13 of his friends in Afghanistan was installed on Guthrie Bell Tower last fall in a Veterans Day ceremony, to which McConnell made reference.

McConnell began by listing the numerous medals and awards Yates had received, including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He then proceeded to tell stories of Yates’ childhood as told to him by Yates’ mother, Kathy Yates.

McConnell, reciting what Eric’s mother had told him, spoke of Eric growing up as an everyday boy, with his favorite shows being “Batman” and “Power Rangers.”

It was a trip to Washington, D.C., in Summer 2001 and the following 9/11 attacks that changed Yates forever and inspire him to join the military, McConnell said.

Yates attended community college before enrolling in WKU’s ROTC program. After graduation, he was stationed at Fort Campbell in the 101st Airborne Division. He was then deployed to Afghanistan.

McConnell read from a letter Yates had written in case he didn’t return home, to be read at his funeral.

Yates used the letter to get across a few of the things he found about in life. First, he told listeners to take a chance, and also wished for everybody to watch the original Star Wars trilogy. He then advised exercise, because it will encourage self-esteem.

Yates heavily emphasized reading as much as possible and wrote that everybody should do as much as possible to better understand the world around them.

Yates finished his letter by saying that liquor is better than beer, to save money and always be open to new ideas. He then wished everybody in attendance a safe and happy life.

“It’s a great loss … that 1st Lt. Eric Yates will not have a long and happy life himself, with the opportunity to share his life and lessons with the people that share that life,” McConnell said. “But I am honored to be able to share them now with my colleagues in the United States Senate.”