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Yokum served in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom

Submitted photo John Yokum, who served in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, is shown with his wife of 17 years, Marsha.

ELKINS — People join the military for many different reasons. Some are seeking a career or to obtain money for college. But Beverly resident John Yokum joined the Army Reserves for one reason and one reason only — to serve his country.

Yokum, who graduated from Elkins High School in 1986, didn’t enlist as many others do right out of high school, but instead waited almost 14 years before signing on with his branch of choice, and served for a total of six years (2000–2006).

“I decided I wanted to serve my country so I went and signed up,” said Yokum. “It was a pretty easy decision for me.”

After enduring six weeks of basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Yokum was sent to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for Combat Mechanic Training, where he spent another six weeks.

“I worked on anything that had a diesel engine in the military,” said Yokum. “If the equipment broke down I would fix it. I was in charge of a motorcade for a while in Parkersburg and then I was deployed overseas for a year.”

Yokum was sent to Iraq, where he used his training to work on combat vehicles during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“When I first went over it was Iraqi Freedom and then they eventually changed the name to Operation Global War on Terrorism,” said Yokum. “Some of the most difficult times over there were when we’d have to do a convoy for hundreds of miles and you never knew if you were going to get bombed or what.”

Yokum admits being overseas was difficult during war time, but he felt it was even tougher on those back home.

“I’ve always said it’s harder on the people left behind than it is on the soldier,” he said. “We knew what we were doing over there, but the people back home didn’t have a clue of what was going on with their family members over there.”

Yokum, who said discipline was the best thing he took away from his time in the military, was grateful he had someone close to him overseas.

“Being away from your family is the hardest part about being over there, but at least my brother (Danny) went with me,” he said. “It was helpful having him there and we were in the same unit together. We got to stay in the same barracks together and we saw each other everyday.”

Yokum said seeing other countries such as Japan and experiencing different cultures was a highlight of his military career.

After leaving the military, Yokum went on to work at the Huttonsville Correctional Center as a corrections officer. He then went to work for the Randolph County Board of Education as a bus driver, a position from which he recently resigned. He has been married to his wife Marsha for 17 years.

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