Darren Ross started setting up the fish fry at 8 a.m. Saturday morning — a $5 a plate fundraiser for Sedalia native Army Spc. Joe Yantz.
Two weeks ago it was members of his family’s church at an ice cream social hosted by St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, which raised $2,358 for the Joe Yantz Support Fund. Last Saturday it was members of the 40 & 8 and Smith-Cotton High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps selling hot dogs.
Other groups and individuals have donated time or resources as the community has rallied around the 21-year-old Yantz, an airborne infantryman who was injured in June by a bomb while on a combat patrol in Afghanistan.
Contrary to preliminary reports of the incident, Yantz received only minor wounds to his neck, face and hand, but his right leg was amputated above the knee. A surgery to repair a perforated eardrum is scheduled for September.
His parents, Jerry and Diane — on hand at the Saturday fish fry before a planned return to Washington D.C.’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center where their son is recuperating — said they have been “shocked and floored” by the outpouring of support for their son.
“When this happened, the most we hoped for was that people would understand we wouldn’t have time for some things. I expected close friends and family would be supportive, but we never expected this,” Diane said. “If we weren’t sold on Sedalia before, we certainly are now.”
Ross, who spent most of Saturday cooking 150 pounds of catfish behind the American Legion Post 642 building and serves as the post’s commander, said simply: “A community should support their own. We have to rise to the occasion. We would do this for any veteran or family, but especially someone from our own hometown.”
Diane said her son’s upbeat spirit and positive attitude have helped him heal more quickly than medical professionals expected. She said he has received the first of a number of prosthetic legs and is now able to spend about 20 minutes at a time standing on his new limb.
“That is just Joe. He is who he is,” Diane said.
Jerry adds that Joe wasn’t originally assigned to the patrol he was injured on, but had volunteered to take the place of a teammate with a wife and young child.
“That’s him. They just had a couple months until they were coming back and Joe didn’t think it was worth the risk,” Jerry said.
Diane said her son’s goal is to recover enough to be certified combat ready and would like to return to his unit and hopes to fulfill a full 20-year career in the Army. Though rare, Diane said some amputees have been returned to combat and she doesn’t doubt her son’s will and determination.
Diane, who has lived with her son since he returned stateside, said he has some leave time coming and expects to return to Sedalia in September.
Yantz is also slated to appear at a number of Veterans Day functions in Sedalia in November.
The Joe Yantz Support Fund is being handled through U.S. Bank, 3615 W. Broadway Boulevard.