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WKU remembers ROTC graduate, American hero killed in Afghanistan

Cadet Jared Bridges stands at the Fallen Soldier memorial at the Guthrie Tower for 1LT Eric Yates. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

1LT Eric Yates was remembered Thursday afternoon as a son, grandson, brother, friend, leader, mentor, soldier and an American hero.

Eric D. Yates

Yates, 26, a 2008 WKU ROTC graduate from Rineyville, died Saturday in Zhari district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. He had been wounded Friday when an improvised explosive device detonated near his patrol.

“He gave his life defending his fellow soldiers. He died an American hero,” said LTC Jason T. Caldwell, head of WKU’s Department of Military Science and Leadership.

Yates served in the Army’s 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell.

The WKU community, members of the ROTC program and the Yates family (including his parents David and Kathy and brother Nathan) attended Thursday’s memorial at WKU’s Guthrie Tower, a site dedicated to freedom and those who gave their lives defending it.

WKU President Gary Ransdell said Eric Yates "will forever hold a place of high honor on this university campus." (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

“It’s a very fine line between pride and grief. Today that line is blurred, ” WKU President Gary Ransdell said.

“On behalf of the faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends and everyone in the university family, David, Kathy and Nathan we open our hearts to you and we share your pride and grief. Eric will forever hold a place of high honor on this university campus.”

After graduating from John Hardin High School in 2003, Yates attended Elizabethtown Community and Technical College and University of Louisville before transferring to WKU. He received a bachelor’s degree in social studies and history at WKU and received his commission through WKU’s Reserve Officers’ Training Program.

Friends and classmates Ryan Torres, William Roach, Jay Finn and John Morris shared memories of their friend. They recalled Yates as a quiet and confident leader, a patient and professional teacher and a warm and humorous friend.

“He was a man of few words but when he spoke it was worth hearing,” Roach said.

A letter to the family from U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell also was read during the memorial.

The funeral for Yates will be held at 10 a.m. (EDT) Monday at St. James Catholic Church in Elizabethtown. Burial with full military rites will be in St. John Cemetery. Visitation is from 3 to 8 p.m. (EDT) Saturday and 2 to 8 p.m. (EDT) Sunday at Brown Funeral Home in Elizabethtown.

A large crowd gathered near the Guthrie Tower for the memorial. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

Contact: Military Science and Leadership, (270) 745-4293.


  1. 1LT Eric Yates Memorial « WKU | Visuals - September 24, 2010

    […] 1LT Eric Yates Memorial Posted September 24, 2010 Filed under: News | Tags: bowling green, campus, ceremony, guthrie bell tower, hilltoppers, kentucky, memorial, military, photography, rotc, western kentucky university, wku | WKU honored a fallen soldier yesterday with a memorial for US Army 1LT Eric Yates who was killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. Yates was a 2008 graduate of the WKU ROTC program. Full Story […]

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