On the East Clinton High School football roster, Cameron Yankey is listed is a halfback and linebacker.
They probably should make room for another position or title — Yankey is a Private First Class in the United States Army.
For 10 weeks this summer, while his East Clinton football teammates were going through training under the watchful eye of head coach Jeremy Yankey and his staff, Cameron Yankey, the coach’s son, was going through basic training at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C.
“The physical part of basic training was not necessarily difficult for me,” Pfc. Yankey said during an interview on the Laurel Oaks campus adjacent to the Wilmington Air Park. “It was more the mental aspect of being a leader. There were a lot of 20 to 25 year-olds that were more immature than the 17 year-olds. Trying to coach them … it’s almost impossible. Almost; not completely.”
The son of Stacey and Jeremy Yankey, Cameron left for basic training on May 21, three days prior to the end of his junior year at East Clinton.
He entered basic training as high schooler Cameron Yankey.
“The first couple weeks everyone is themselves still, not a soldier yet,” he said. “We’re all still doing civilian life things and getting in trouble for it.”
He graduated later in the summer as Pfc. Yankey — but as a completely different individual.
“I always say that he is my little boy, but he’s a grown man now,” said Stacey Yankey, Cameron’s mother. “At graduation and family day, they march out to the field and they let the families go and you find your soldier. Seeing him standing there, looking straight ahead, not moving and waiting for us to come to him … I could tell there was so much more maturity and personality the way he displayed himself.”
Cameron’s military interest was primarily sparked by Jeremy’s brother, Neil Arehart.
“When Neil was in high school, Cameron was 5 or 6 and they shared a room together,” said Jeremy. “Neil kind of went the same path with the Army National Guard and is still active. Cameron’s always looked up to him.”
Cameron signed up for the Army National Guard on Dec. 6, 2017. He’s been spending one weekend each month with his unit in Hamilton. One of those weekends followed East Clinton’s season-opening football game against Clinton-Massie.
“He was a little sore,” Jeremy said with a smile.
Cameron plans to make a career of the military. As it is now, he’s signed up for six years in the Army National Guard, then two years of active duty.
“I could then get deployed,” he said. “After those two years on Dec. 6, I could re-sign. It all depends on what I want to do at that time, which is eight years from now so I’m not sure.”
Next summer, Cameron will go through AIT, which consists of the remainder of his total basic training period and is where recruits train in the specifics of their chosen fields. Those six to seven weeks will be spent at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
From there, Cameron will complete his time with the Army National Guard one weekend a month until his six years are finished.
In the meantime, Cameron will apply his training and focus on East Clinton football. When he returned to the football program in early August, Cameron was welcomed with open arms.
“A lot of these kids actually come talk to me about joining (the military),” Cameron said. “They are looking at me more than as a leader (on the football team), but as a life model.
”One of the things that opened my eyes was seeing the number of kids excited to see me. Running that first mile (at practice), I know why I did that (basic training). It wasn’t just for the country … it was mostly for the country, but I did it for these guys, because I’m more than just a football player to them and they’re more than friends to me, they’re family.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wnjsports