Lafayette airman killed in Afghanistan

May 1, 2008 9:47:47 AM PDT
The city of Lafayette is coping with the first loss of one of its own service members, in the shadow of the field of crosses that honor soldiers killed in the Iraq War.

Senior airman Jonathan Yelner was killed in Afghanistan.

His mom and family often called him Jake. He was born and raised in Lafayette, and on Wednesday, military personnel came to the home to comfort the family.

In Lafayette, another number will be added to the memorial sign recording the U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yelner died on Tuesday when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device.

He was 24 and a senior airman assigned to the 28th Aircraft Squadron.

Ken Branch is the family's spokesperson. He read a letter written by Yelner's mom.

"Jake was proud to serve in the Air Force. He wanted to serve his country. He did what he wanted to do. I am not angry at anyone. I am though devastated that I will not see my son," read Branch in a letter written by Yelner's mother.

Yelner attended De La Salle High School in Concord. On Wednesday morning, school officials placed an American flag next to a cross in the yard.

"Thoughtful, kind. He was an eagle scout and lived that out every day of his life," said De La Salle School spokesperson Roger Hassett.

"I was really honored to have him as a neighbor and a friend. That's all I can say, because if I say more I'll cry," said a neighbor who knew Yelner.

The white crosses memorial has become synonymous with Lafayette.

Lynn MacMichael is one of the people responsible for putting them up -- one for each solder killed.

"It gives people a place to mourn the losses and to honor the lives of those who were so brave and courageous," said MacMichael.

This is De La Salle's first student to die while serving in Afghanistan. One school official said, 'we know it was never a matter of if, but when.'