Friends, family remember WKU grad killed in Afghanistan

ROTC Cadet Justin Powell stands guard at a memorial service for 1st Lt. Eric D. Yates at Guthrie Bell Tower on Thursday. Yates graduated in 2008 with a degree in social studies and history. Luke Sharrett/Herald

Spencer Jenkins

Check Friday’s Herald for a full profile on 1st Lt. Eric Yates.

As the flags on campus stood at half-staff today, family and friends gathered around the Guthrie Bell Tower to honor the life of 1st Lt. Eric D. Yates, who was killed by a roadside bomb last weekend in Afghanistan.

Yates – a 2008 WKU graduate – served with the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan.

Those close to Yates remember him as a proud American soldier.

Alumnus Tyler Reid, a good friend of Yates, said he knew him as both a soldier and a civilian.

“It’s easy to forget who a guy really was when he wears a uniform – he was a good soldier, but he was much more,” Reid said.

Yates was an artillery officer attached as a forward observer to an infantry company, Reid said. His job was to direct the artillery and aircrafts to support the infantry.

He was killed by a roadside bomb, Reid said.

“I said goodbye to him that morning in front of the hotel as the valet brought ours trucks down,” Reid said. “I shook his hand, (and said) ‘Well buddy, I will see you on the other side of this thing.’ Little did I know this thing would be life, not the war.”

People also remember Yates when he wasn’t wearing a uniform.

Alumnus Jessica Ray said Yates was someone she could be comfortable around.

“Like so many people, I never realized just how much I took my freedom and country for granted, until I was close to someone fighting to protect that freedom,” Ray said.

President Gary Ransdell said during the ceremony that all the WKU men and women fighting overseas serve for freedom.

“We pour our hearts out to you (Yates family), and we share your pride and grief,” Ransdell said in tears.