By Joel Hall
In the 1960s, the land on which Pristine Chapel Lakeside in Jonesboro sits belonged to the family of Army Master Sgt. Mitch Young. According to family members, he spent most of his early childhood playing along Mt. Zion Boulevard.
"Our driveway led out to the street. We've lived in this county since 1961, so our roots go back deep here," Young's mother, Jane Young, said.
A graduate of Jonesboro High School, Mitch Young joined the Army in 1991, eventually becoming an elite Special Forces soldier based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. On July 13, 2008, Young was killed in Afghanistan when his Humvee struck a makeshift bomb during a reconnaissance mission. He was 39.
Just over a year after his death, relatives and members of the community gathered at Pristine Chapel Lakeside to celebrate his life, and dedicate a portion of Mt. Zion Boulevard in his honor.
On Sunday, nearly 100 people gathered at the chapel for a memorial service and dedication ceremony. During the service, family members sang hymns, shared stories and unveiled a memorial bench made out of black granite bearing the words "Deployed Forever."
State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood), who helped organize the event, presented members of the Young family with a resolution recognizing Mitch Young's sacrifice. Clayton County Commissioner Michael Edmondson presented the family with a proclamation, and on behalf of the board of commissioners dedicated the portion of Mt. Zion Boulevard between Battle Creek Road and Wright Circle in Young's memory.
Glanton described Young as "a super soldier" who had completed "some of the most advanced combat courses the Army has to offer." In addition to defending the nation's freedoms, Glanton said the Young family has contributed to many civic causes in the county over the years.
"While I didn't know Mitch personally, I know his mother," Glanton said. "By that, I know that he had no choice but to be a great human being. This family has been here for many generations, but has also been very generous to this community. I felt it was fitting to do something of this magnitude to not only recognize his sacrifice, but also the family's commitment to the community.
"The mood of the event on Sunday was not one of sorrow and sadness," he added. "It was one of celebration, not only honoring the life of a soldier, but also a good human being."
Edmondson said dedicating a portion of Mt. Zion Boulevard to Young would serve as a fitting memorial to someone who gave so much to the community.
"A man's character can be defined by their willingness to give," he said. "Mitch gave everything. His memory needs to last. His memory is there to guide the rest of us ... to teach us how to sacrifice for each other. We should rejoice in the freedoms he protected."
Jane Young said Sunday's ceremony helped bring peace to many members of the Young family who were unable to travel to Fort Bragg a year ago when Mitch Young was memorialized there.
"They had a ceremony there, but we wanted to have a ceremony here because everybody couldn't go to North Carolina," she said. "We really wanted to have a ceremony that was memorable and long lasting. I am very grateful that the county chose to honor my son in such a nice way.
"He surprised us growing up when he said that he wanted to go into the service," Jane Young added. "He loved being in the military, he loved being a part of the Special Forces, and he knew it was dangerous. I think a lot of parents want their children to be happy with whatever they have chosen."
She said the family has "peace of mind" in knowing that Mitch Young, "did what he loved doing."