How do we honor our veterans and our fallen? By remembering their names …

… and telling their stories to the world

Joe Grimm, the director of a Michigan State University School of Journalism project that is helping veterans, writes today about how one family is honoring the memory of their fallen soldier. (Learn more about MSU’s efforts below.)

Tony Yost tombstone at Arlington

Cheyenne Yost places a photo of her graduation from Michigan State University on her father’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. Photo courtesy of STRIVE Communications, Inc.

By JOE GRIMM

Cheyenne Yost could not hug her dad on Father’s Day, but she says he was with her just the same.

He was with her again five days later when the Yost Weapons Training Facility at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was dedicated in his name on June 26.

Cheyenne says her father, Master Sgt. Anthony R.C. Yost, has been in her heart—just as he promised—ever since he was killed in Iraq on Nov. 19, 2005. On that day, Yost led a unit of Iraqi soldiers he helped train to assist members of another unit who thought they had cornered Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Doc Maloney, who had been a weapons instructor with Yost at Fort Bragg, said “Tony decided he was going to take the Iraqis he had trained and clear the building. They encountered some resistance in the building and someone on the outside detonated a car that was right next to the house. That reduced the house to rubble and killed Tony and the Iraqi commandos …

“When Tony was killed, I got a phone call from another friend of ours who served with us. When he told me that Tony had been killed in Mosul that day, I was in shock. … I had not thought that he would go over there and get killed. A couple years later we ended up with this new weapons facility. Brand new. And I thought what a great thing it would be if I could get this building named after Tony.”

Maloney, who turned 72 in June, joined the Marines Corps in June 1960 and went into the Army’s Special Forces in 1978. He retired in 2003 and has been a civilian instructor since June of 2004. With 55 years in the military, he knows it is “very, very unusual and very rare” to get a building named after anyone, especially an enlisted soldier.

But Tony Yost, also called “Chief” for the Apache part of his mixed heritage, and “Andy,” was not like many other soldiers. Yost could speak Russian and other languages, played team sports in high school, hunted, was a gunsmith and rode a red Harley-Davidson motorcycle. For his service in the Army’s 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (airborne), Yost was decorated with a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and the Silver Star, the third-highest medal a service member can receive.

Maloney called Yost “a bigger-than-life guy.”

With Warrant Officer 2 George O’Neal, Maloney pursued the renaming, but a sergeant major who said Yost’s rank wasn’t high enough for such recognition, blocked them. The breakthrough came when Command Sgt. Maj. George Bequer, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, came into the line of command and green-lighted the dedication. Maloney said, “The irony of it was that George (Bequer) was also at one time an instructor and the non-commissioned officer in charge.”

Cheyenne Yost said she sees Maloney as he saw her dad: bigger than life. “He worked hard on it and I am really thankful for him. I know my dad would be proud to have this legacy. … I don’t feel sad that my dad is gone. I do feel so happy that he had a building named for him. He died doing what he loved. He loved his work; he loved his students; he loved his job.”

“Chey” was expecting her dad to come home in two months when the bad news came from Mosul. She was 13; he was 39. The Fort Bragg dedication and her dad’s presence and buddies helped make up for so many fatherless events, including Cheyenne’s graduation from Michigan State University in May.

In one of her classes, Cheyenne helped create 100 Questions and Answers About Muslim Americans, one in a series of cultural competence guides published by the MSU School of Journalism. When Cheyenne heard that the next semester’s class would publish a guide to help civilians understand veterans, she jumped to help.

The class generally interviews only members of the group it is covering, and Cheyenne Yost is not a veteran. So, she briefly faced opposition similar to what Maloney had faced with her dad’s nomination. But she insisted on telling the story of her family. There are more than 20 million U.S. military veterans—and when family members like Cheyenne are included, the number of Americans with close ties to veterans is several times larger.

Cheyenne Yost with plaque honoring her father at Fort Bragg

Cheyenne Yost says she felt her father’s presence at the June 26 ceremony dedicating the Yost Weapons Training Facility at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Photo by Erin Maloney.

TELLING THE STORY FAMILIES KNOW SO WELL

Several of Cheyenne Yost’s insights made it into the final text of the veterans guide. Within the book, you’ll find her personal touch in statements like these:

  • Military families can be very close, even though they may be far apart.
  • The military can become a family. Several of her father’s friends reached out to Cheyenne.
  • Some assume that the government pays for the college of veterans’ children. Not true.
  • Military children can have trouble making friends.
  • Family members can experience Post-Traumatic Stress, just like service members do, and it can come back.
  • Stigmas and labels abound. Veterans are stereotyped as being damaged people who have PTS, who are homeless or who must rely on wheelchairs. Or, they can be stereotyped as heroes.

Speaking for her father and his buddies, Cheyenne said, “They don’t want to be thought of as different. They don’t want to be defined as being a veteran.”

On the day after the dedication, Cheyenne Yost said, “My dad was very spiritual and he always told me that if anything would happen, that he would always be in my heart. … I feel like he’s with me all the time in these big moments.”

Now, with the training center named in Tony Yost’s memory and with the Fourth of July coming up, it is a good time to learn about U.S. veterans and their families. Find 100 Questions and Answers About Veterans: A Guide for Civilians, with Cheyenne Yost’s name in it and videos with veterans by Detroit Public Television on Amazon.

There is also a website about Master Sgt. Anthony R.C. Yost.

Joe Grimm was one of Cheyenne Yost’s professors. He continues as editor for this series of guides published by the Michigan State University School of Journalism.

CARE TO READ MORE?

Cover of the MSU 100 Q&A Veterans Large Book

Click the cover to learn more about the book.

Getting to know our millions of veterans is a major goal of ReadTheSpirit and PBS this year. With help from DPTV, Michigan’s flagship public TV station, the Michigan State University School of Journalism published a new multimedia book designed to help civilians make those connections.

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