BOWLING GREEN, KY (WAVE) - Western Kentucky University held a memorial September 23 to honor a graduate of the university killed in action. 26-year-old 1st Lt. Eric Yates died September 18 from injuries received after an IED explosion near his patrol while serving in southern Afghanistan.
The 26-year-old Rineyville native, who graduated from WKU in December 2008, was a member of the ROTC program at the university. The memorial service was held in front of the Guthrie Tower, named after Sergeant First Class Robert Guthrie, who was killed in the Korean War. It serves as a place for the university to remember fallen comrades. University staff members honored Yates, who was in the 101st Airborne based at Fort Campbell.
"On this day we may experience pain, sadness and heartache, but through this all we had the joy in knowing a life that was lost was lost for the cause of freedom," one speaker said.
"Time can heal some things, yet other things will probably never be the same. September 18 will probably never be the same," said Lt. Col. Jason Caldwell, Professor of Military Science and Leadership, in front of a crowd of friends and family. "He raised his right hand and he swore to defend his country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. He gave his life to his country. He gave his life defending his fellow soldiers and he died an American hero."
"Yates gave his life upholding the Army values," said 2nd Lt. William Roach. "The Army and the nation owe a great debt of gratitude to Eric's memory."
Although Roach said he knew Yates for a short time, but added Yates made an impact. Friends described Yates as having a quiet demeanor.
"Eric wasn't always the first to speak, but when he did boy everyone listened," one friend said.
"Yates was more than a grad of WKU; more than the image framed before you. He's more than the pair of boots and rifle before you here," another friend shared.
During the service, fellow classmates and friends brought Yates' memory alive.
"Eric was a man that was patient and good hearted and earnest and I'm proud to have known him," another friend said.
"Eric will forever hold a place of high honor on this campus and on this hallowed ground that salutes duty, honor, country for the nation that we love," said Dr. Gary Ransdell, president of WKU.
Visitation for Lt. Yates is scheduled for Saturday, September 25 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, September 26 from at 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. at Brown Funeral Home in Elizabethtown. His funeral service is on Monday, September 27 at 10 in the morning at Saint James Catholic Church in Elizabethtown. Burial follows the service at Saint John Cemetery.