Soldier with Minnesota ties killed in Afghanistan

4:02 PM, Aug 24, 2009   |    comments
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Jonathan Yanney once described himself as a "pretty active" person, "so I don't like just sitting around doing nothing."

Not long after he graduated from high school, Yanney joined an Army Stryker brigade deployed to southern Afghanistan. The 20-year-old was reportedly on his way to help another unit under fire last week when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle. The explosion killed him and another soldier, Spc. Troy O. Tom, 21, of Shiprock, N.M.

"Extremely driven," was how his former high school principal, Marcella Swatosh, described Yanney on Monday.

"We knew that he wanted to go into something where he could help people," said Swatosh, the principal of Norwood High School in southern Missouri, which Yanney attended for three years. "He was always very focused on wanting to help people, and it sounds like that's what he was doing.

Yanney, of Litchfield, Minn., enlisted in the Army in March 2008 and reported to Fort Lewis, Wash., six months later.

He was sent to Kandahar province, one of the most dangerous regions of Afghanistan. Insurgents regularly plant roadside bombs to attack Afghan and foreign troops there to combat both the Taliban and a thriving opium trade.

Yanney's self-description was on his MySpace page, where there was little else about him. Contact information for family members couldn't be found Monday.

A posting on Yanney's MySpace from someone who identified himself as his father said Yanney was "en route to assist another unit under fire." The man, Russ Yanney, did not respond to a message sent on MySpace.

Jonathan Yanney's decision to join the military was a surprise to some who knew him.

"I never pictured that," said Kevin Drake, his former baseball coach. "Very respectful, always, 'Yes sir, Mr. Drake.' ... As far as the being respectful part, you could see the military in him. But no, I wouldn't have thought he'd be in the armed forces."

Drake said he persuaded Yanney to join the team even though he hadn't played baseball before. In time, Yanney became a good hitter on the junior-varsity level and played in a handful of varsity games by his second year.

Both Drake and Swatosh, his high school principal, remembered his sense of humor.

"It was very dry," Swatosh said.

Yanney later moved to Tennessee for a short time. Samantha Lynn Fedele worked with him at a Wendy's in Johnson City and stayed in touch after he moved to Minnesota and then deployed abroad.

She remembered him as outgoing and friendly.

"He just had this big, bright smile," she said. "His smile would be the very first thing you noticed."

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved).

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