VETERANS AFFAIRS: The Hero I Never Got To Meet

Staff Sargeant Jon DeBoe, U.S. Army

I’d like to take a minute and tell you about a man I never got the pleasure to meet: a Vietnam War hero, a fellow union brother, and a man who left behind an enormous legacy for all veterans. His name is Michael “Mick” Yauger. We can never fill his shoes, but we must try.

Michael “Mick” Yauger

I got to know more about Mick’s life when I was invited by UWUA Director of Veterans Affairs and Workforce Development Rick Passarelli to participate in Mick’s burial at Arlington Cemetery on October 12. Both Rick and Mick were veterans living in the Chicago area and had gotten to know each other through their work on veterans’ advocacy.

The service was the most amazing ceremony anyone could ever witness. The flawless movements of the old guard and the 21-gun salute will always be burned into my mind.

After everyone said their final goodbye to Mick, we gathered and shared stories about his life — his military achievements, his work as a Teamster, and his personal life. I started to understand who Mick was and what he meant to everyone. A few speeches stood out to me, and I took them as a motivational challenge.

Rick shared a story about being in negotiations when Mick barged in and wanted to talk. Rick said I’m in the middle of negotiations, it needs to wait. Mick insisted that it couldn’t. As Rick went deeper into the story, I began to understand that Mick was headstrong when it came to veterans and their needs. Colonel Rocke also told a very powerful, personal story which made me want to jump in and start doing more for veterans right on the spot.

The takeaway from being part of this remarkable memorial was that we still have work to do on behalf of Mick and millions of other veterans out there. So, I say to all my union brothers and sisters: stand up, get involved and lend a helping hand. Mick was a fighter. He fought all the way to Capitol Hill for us. Now it’s our turn to carry on his legacy. It’s our turn to fight for the next generation as Mick fought for us.