Local Air Force Veteran and humanitarian Yvonne Yates was honored for her years of military service by Toxic Toyz Car Club during their Winterfest Car Show on Saturday. Yates was one of two veterans honored on Saturday, with the other being Marine Corps Veteran Mike Engel.
“I was in the Air Force from 1994 to 1998 and that was during Desert Storm and also the Bosnia invasion,” Yates said. “And because of those two, I was at a stealth base at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, the only place the stealths were here in the country. The whole time I was in, we were at war. We wore BDUs, even though I was in the Air Force and had Air Force blues, I never wore them except for a picture. There was about 5,000 soldiers at my base, and I worked in the military personnel flight, the MPF.”
Yates described doing evaluations every day ‘like any job’, APRs and OPRs which evaluate who gets promoted, and later moving on to DD214 evaluations which determines discharge statuses.
“I was in for 4 years, my mother had bad health and my brother thought I should come here,” said Yates. “So I came here and I was able to spend a year back in Knoxville for a year before she passed. After I got my associates degree at Jackson State Community college, I came here, went to the military, came back, graduated from UT.”
Yates described being married around the time that Operation Desert Storm kicked off. With worries that her husband could get called in, Yates said that neither she nor her husband wanted to be called in at the same time with the two having a child to raise. And so she waited until her husband’s service time was done and signed up after he had returned, being the oldest recruit to go through basic training at the age of 27, turning 28 while in basic training.
After getting out of the Air Force, Yates describes working at a print shop in Ruidoso, New Mexico until her daughter could finish school. Upon returning to Knoxville, she worked at the Salvation Army as a volunteer coordinator, a position she claims opened her eyes to the homeless problem.
“When I got here, I noticed that none of the nonprofits and the churches were working together,” she said. “In Knoxville, they have a place called Compassion Coalition, and that’s exactly what they did. So, I tried that here and we have a group it’s called Roane County Resource Group, and I do have over 80 members. I’ll ask somebody if they’re in a church or ministry or a club like Lions Club or American Legion, who are all in there. That way if there’s something going on here, whether it’s a veteran or a homeless or or some other situation, we can reach out and see which resource can help.”
The Roane County Resource Group also extends aid to charitable groups in need.
“If for the resources, maybe the funding is not there, then it’s a way to say ‘Hey, the roof just fell in at our church, can anybody help?’ ” said Yates. “Then, we can all rally together and help them. If somebody is doing something like say raising canned food, or they need a shoe drive, if it’s not just one then we’ll put it in there and everybody tries to help them and that way, since our community is small, we hit more of our target.”
She also said she believes that working together can help end the homelessness and drug problems in Roane County.