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Fallen soldier with ties to Litch. 'a happy-go-lucky kid'

LITCHFIELD -- Jonathan Yanney was a good student and baseball player who was well-liked by his teachers and classmates.

"He was a happy-go-lucky kid that everybody liked," said Don Forrest, superintendent of schools in Norwood, Mo., where Yanney attended school for three years. "He was a real outgoing boy," he said. "And he was one that everyone got along with."

Because very few new students attend the small K-12 grade school that has a total of about 450 students, Yanney was quickly noticed, said Forrest. But his ease at making friends is what people remember about him.

Yanney, 20, died Aug. 18 of wounds suffered when a vehicle he and another soldier were in came in contact with an improvised explosive device in Arghandab, Afghanistan, just days before the national election there. According to information from the Department of Defense, Yanney listed Litchfield as his hometown. His connection to this area, however, may have been brief. Numerous attempts by the Tribune to find people in the Litchfield area who knew Yanney or his family were unsuccessful and attempts to locate and contact potential family members were also unsuccessful.

Forrest said Yanney attended the Norwood, Mo., school district from August 2004 to February of 2007, but withdrew before graduating. "But he was here long enough that we remember him," said Forrest, who said he said he believes Yanney's mother, Jane, lives in Missouri.

Yanney did not attend the Litchfield schools, said Superintendent Bill Wold. "We don't have any record of this young gentleman. He did not attend here," he said.

"I don't recognize that name."

Inquiries to the Litchfield Chamber of Commerce generated no information about the family, and Johnson-Hagglund Funeral Home has not been contacted about providing funeral services.

Brent Schacherer, editor of the Independent Review in Litchfield, said he believes Yanney's parents moved to Litchfield from Missouri to operate a bar, currently called Kicker's, for a short time before moving out of state, and that Jonathan likely came with them.

"He was here briefly," said Schacherer, who was also struggling to find someone in the community who had ties to the soldier or who knew the family.

A woman who answered the phone at Kicker's on Monday night could not confirm whether Yanneys had owned the bar, but she said the name sounded right.

It's possible Jonathan Yanney enlisted in the Army while his parents lived in Litchfield.

Joe Kubistek, a spokesman from Fort Lewis, Wash., where Yanney was based with the Army, said soldiers supply the name of the town where they live at the time they enlist.

Official records indicate Yanney enlisted in Minneapolis in March of 2008 and he provided Litchfield as his hometown. That information is not updated if a family moves, said Kubistek.

On his MySpace social networking site, Yanney said he was an "honest, hard working and a nice guy" who liked sports, fishing and music.

In a posting on the site, Russ Yanney, who identified himself as Jonathan's father, said his son was "en route to assist another unit under fire" when his vehicle struck an IED.

"He was my first born son. I loved him very much and he will be greatly missed," he wrote in a message to Jonathan's friends. "His smile and desire to help and learn will always be remembered."

Another soldier who was with Yanney, Spc. Troy Orion Tom, 21, of Shiprock, N.M., was also killed in the blast.

They served in the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

This was Yanney's first deployment.

Kubistek said Yanney's body had arrived at Dover Air Force Base. It's customary for a memorial service to be held at Fort Lewis, but Kubistek said he did not know where the family would hold a service for Yanney.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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