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Remembering Green Beret, neighbors display patriotism

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

When Jane Young came home from Fort Bragg, from the formal, military ceremony where she collected the remains of her son, she saw what her neighbors had done, and she was overwhelmed.

"I can't even tell you," she said. "I've had a lot of love and concern from my neighbors. I don't know how anybody does this alone."

In front of each house, all on Mt. Zion Place, a small American flag was planted. In front of the development, in front of the big brick sign that says "Mt. Zion Place," there was a sign with Young's son's name, and four flags, and it said:

"In Honor of

Master Sgt. Mitch Young

WE SALUTE YOU!

Your Neighbors."

Mitch Young died in Afghanistan on July 13. A Clayton County native and a Jonesboro High School grad, the 39-year-old Green Beret parachutist was on his third assignment to Afghanistan and in his 18th year with the Army. His humvee hit a "pressure plated, improvised explosive device," according to the official report, injuring three soldiers and killing Mitch Young immediately.

Pam Leclerc, who lives across the street from Jane Young, said the news hit the whole neighborhood hard.

"We knew Mitch when he was a little boy," Leclerc said, "when he was playing in the woods over there by the lake. We wanted to show our support and our appreciation for what Mitch had sacrificed for all of us."

Leclerc and Marsha Bell, another neighbor, organized the effort of flags and paid for the signs. Everyone, all along the street, was supportive, Leclerc said.

"We wanted it to be sincere and from all of us," she said. "We wanted Jane Young to know we loved her and we cared about Mitch and what he was doing."

The neighbor's were also moved by the words Mitch Young wrote in 2007, in a letter to the Clayton News Daily, on the Fourth of July: "If you are unable to thank a vet, say thanks to either the parents or the spouse of a vet."

Jane Young, in her home preparing for a memorial service, said she didn't know what her son would have thought of the overt show of support.

"I don't know how to answer that," she said. "He feels like Americans should be a lot more dedicated to patriotism and love of country."

On her kitchen counter, Jane Young had photos of her uniformed son all spread out. In one, he wears a dress uniform, his Green Beret contrasting boldly with his red hair. In another, a grainy self-portrait, he displays a scraggly beard, grown by the special forces soldier during his last Afghan mission.

"He loved what he did 100 percent," Jane Young said, " and if it had to happen, at least it happened quick."

A memorial service for Mitch Young will be held at Pristine Chapel, 7541 Mt. Zion Blvd., in Jonesboro, on July 31 at 11 a.m.