Adkins Elementary School students and staff in Lantana celebrated Armed Forces Day on Friday by welcoming a military veteran who knows the meaning of service, Staff Sgt. Johnnie Yellock II.
Yellock, who retired from the U.S. Air Force after sustaining leg injuries in Afghanistan, spoke to students about his experiences in the military as well as the importance of service of all types – service to others, for instance. That dedication to service is a goal Staff Sgt. Yellock said he constantly strives to maintain.
“With both my parents having been in the military, I had a pretty good idea that I also wanted to enlist and serve,” Yellock said. “Being in the military taught my parents values that they passed on to me and my sister. After I was in college, I was motivated to join when I saw everything going on in the world.”
After enlisting in 2007, Yellock deployed to Afghanistan for a second tour of duty to the country in 2011 as a member of a special operations team. On July 6 of that year, an improvised explosive device detonated below the vehicle he was riding in, resulting in life-threating injuries to both his legs. He applied tourniquets to his legs and continued to support his team by providing helicopter guidance.
For his service, Yellock was awarded the Bronze Star, Combat Action Medal and Purple Heart.
When asked whether he was scared during his time in the military, Yellock said he was, but only with the underlying knowledge that he was equipped to deal with any fear.
“The truth is it’s perfectly fine to be scared at times,” he answered. “But it’s important to be confidence in yourself and your leaders and your friends. The military spent lots of money preparing us, and that’s what I did – I trusted my leaders and what they invested to prepare us. And I was scared sometimes, but I was prepared.”
Now that he’s out of the military – he medically retired in 2013 –Yellock spends his time helping fellow veterans as a liaison with the Helping a Hero nonprofit organization. Through it, he helps severely wounded veterans return to the U.S. by providing them with specially adapted homes.
Earlier this year, the organization broke ground on a home in Lantana for another veteran who sustained significant injuries during service: Yellock himself.
Though he can walk, Yellock has to use leg braces to do so. If he didn’t use the braces, he would have to use a wheelchair, he said. Most Adkins students didn’t even notice the braces until he showed them to the school, however.
The military veteran will move into his new home this summer, and the students at Adkins – the overwhelming majority of whom are from Lantana– gave him an inspiring look at his future community.
“Whatever reason I had to choose Lantana before today, this [being here and meeting all of you] is the reason I want to be here,” Yellock told the students and staff.