Pfc. Michael E. Yates Jr., 19, of Federalsburg, Md. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, Grafenwoehr, Germany.
Pictured here with his son, Kamren:Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Michael Edward Yates Jr. liked to hunt and fish, his stepfather recalled. And the Federalsburg, Md., resident wanted to serve his country.
So it seemed logical that he went into the Army and became a cavalry scout. The 19-year-old enjoyed that assignment, said his stepfather, Richard Van Blargan Jr.
But on his return to Iraq after leave at home last month, some discontents arose, Van Blargan said. He said Yates was in counseling Monday when a fellow soldier shot and killed him and four others.
Yates was a responsible, "upstanding guy," his stepfather said by telephone from the family home. If you were in trouble, "he was the guy you wanted to stand beside you," he said.
He said his stepson was born in Baltimore and moved as a child to the Eastern Shore, where he attended Colonel Richardson High School in Federalsburg.
Van Blargan said he and Yates's mother, Shawna Machlinski, have been married since before Yates entered his teens. The blended family included nine children. Michael was one of four who entered the military. Two others have served in Iraq.
Yates joined at 17. "We signed papers," Van Blargan said. Yates held a GED, the stepfather said.
"He wanted to do something with his life that meant something," Van Blargan said. "He was following in the footsteps of his brothers and sisters" and maintaining and extending a "proud family heritage."
There had been a girlfriend. They broke up when he went off to the Army, Van Blargan said. Shortly afterward, he said, Yates learned that he was to be a father.
"He stood up," Van Blargan said, and paid child support before the child was born. Later, Van Blargan said, Yates would tell his parents that if anything was needed by mother or child, "get it to them."
He was sent first to Fort Knox, Ky., then to Germany, and late last year to Iraq.
Last month, he came back to Federalsburg on leave. He met a woman who was like him in many ways. Among other things, she liked to hunt and fish, and "they clicked," Van Blargan said. "She was a country girl and he was a country boy," he said. Although they had only two weeks together, he said, "they formed a bond."His mother said Wednesday she harbors "mixed emotions" toward the attacker who killed her son."I feel for him, but at the same time I am very angry at him," said Shawna Machlinski, mother of slain 19-year-old Pfc. Michael E. Yates Jr.
Sgt. John M. Russell has been charged with five counts of murder in the killing. Yates of Federalsburg, Maryland, was one of the five service members slain Monday.
"I think he (Russell) needed help and couldn't get it fast enough because you have to wait on everything with the Army," said Machlinski, referring to the alleged shooter and the problems the stress clinic addresses. She and Yates' stepfather, Richard Van Blargan Jr., chatted with reporters on Wednesday in Maryland.
"As much as I have a lot of anger towards him, I also have some sympathy because I know he must have been going through a lot, as well," Machlinski said of Russell.
While she said that "doesn't excuse" the shooter's actions, "I believe that if he would've gotten the help that he was there to get, maybe sooner, or got more help and other people recognized the signs, because there are signs, and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure those signs out."
"We're not sure as to what happened over there," Van Blargan said.
Speaking about Yates, he said, "We do know that he was at the stress clinic. Like quite a few other military people, they've all dealt with the stress the best way they could. He was due to go back to his unit today, until this unfortunate event."
Van Blargan said he didn't know much about the shooting suspect.
"He was probably under a lot of stress as well. Quite a bit more from my understanding," Van Blargan said of the shooting suspect. "He has friends and family, extended families that will miss him dearly."
Van Blargan said Yates told Machlinski in a phone call on Mother's Day that Yates had met the suspected shooter, saying he was a "very nice guy" and "could deal with him" but that the man had "some major issues."
"He was out there on the branch hoping for somebody to help him," Van Blargan said. Van Blargan said Yates -- who was a father himself -- is going to be missed.
"He was a good man, a good father. He took care of his responsibilities. He was very honorable. He was a good son. He treated everyone with respect and he just wanted respect back," Van Blargan said.
Machlinski said her son told her in the Mother's Day phone call that the clinic program he attended "was kind of stupid because he had to color and do arts and crafts and cut and paste." But Machlinski said her son knew had to complete the program so he could go back to his base."He was one of the lucky ones that understood that he needed help," Van Blargan said.
Let us NEVER FORGET.
[This profile courtesy of the Living Legend Team, Soldiers' Angels]