Remembering John Young
Published 7:00 am Friday, August 25, 2017
Earlier this week, the Picayune community lost a decorated hero, Vietnam veteran and avid photographer, John Young. He was 72.
To many, Young was the man taking pictures during Picayune sporting events, but to those blessed to know him, he was much more than the man behind the camera.
Picayune softball coach Kristi Mitchell recalls the first time she met Young in the late 1990s, right before a slow pitch softball game at Friendship Park.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. He came up to me and said, ‘Excuse me coach, can I speak with you? I take pictures as a hobby, usually still photos, but I would like to know if I could take pictures of your team and see how I do with action,” Mitchell said. “Then, with a ponytail flowing down to his waist, he took the most beautiful pictures with a 35 millimeter camera behind the chain linked fence.”
Little did Mitchell or Young know at the time that this was the beginning of a friendship that continued for over a decade.
Soon enough, Young took a hobby and used it to provide memories to thousands of families.
“He never wanted to be in the limelight. He was so humble and if you ever got the chance to get to know the man, you were blessed. I was truly blessed to have him film my entire career,” she said.
Young studied journalism and was involved in ROTC at the University of Minnesota in 1966, when the Vietnam war began. Young, who came from a long line of military service, said in previous coverage that he was bored in school and wanted adventure. So one day, he dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army as an infantryman.
“We took good care of John, but in the end, it was the other way around,” Lane Crawford said, who took care of Young in his latter years. “John was a true patriot and was a pillar of this community. There’s a story about him in Vietnam that perfectly shows what kind of man he was.”
That story of Young, who weighed roughly 120 pounds at the time, involved him carrying his wounded friend, who weighed over 250 pounds, through the tall grass in Vietnam while being shot at.
“That’s just the type of guy he is; he will literally do anything for anyone. He is such a loving, kind-hearted guy that will be sadly missed by many,” Crawford said.
Young was a retired Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient, who was featured in the National Geographic documentary “Brothers In War” and provided a large contribution to the book, “The Boys of ‘67” a novel about enlisted men’s experiences during the Vietnam war.
But though all the hardships he endured overseas, Mitchell said he had such a lively and happy spirit that it was hard to think he ever had a bad day.
“His stories and life experiences he shared with me really opened my eyes a lot. He always told me how much he appreciated me and the team, but I hope he knows that the honor was truly ours. He is the type of person you only meet once in a lifetime, and I would have to say one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life was allowing him on the field to take pictures of the softball team. He’s one of the best friends anyone could ever ask for,” Mitchell said.