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Empower's Yearwood Committed to Service

Empower's Yearwood Committed to Service

The year was 2013 when young William Yearwood first arrived in Afghanistan. He was stationed to a base that was the size of a football field. During his time deployed in Afghanistan, he and his unit would do patrols around the area. Patrolling in Afghanistan could last from anywhere between a few hours to a few weeks. He was the team’s combat medic during this time. His team was attached to Seal Team Three. 

When Yearwood and the team would return to base after a patrol, they’d be welcomed back by Falkor, a base dog. Falkor brought a lot of joy to Yearwood during his nine months spent over there. 

“One of my favorite memories is when we were in Afghanistan, I had this little clinic that was the size of a ten by ten room. We had a dog that we got from the Afghans and we were attached to Seal Team Three as their support people and one of the seals' wives was a veterinarian,” said Yearwood.

“The wife sent over rabies vaccinations and other things for the dog. So we just had a mascot around base and we would get to play with him after patrols. It was really cool.”

Yearwood graduated from East Jackson Comprehensive High School in 2010. After graduating, he knew that he wanted to get straight into the Army. Combat Medic was the first available position and it was a position that ultimately led Yearwood to where he is today serving as an EMS Instructor at the Empower College and Career Center.

“I was in the Tenth Mountain Division, so we were like a winter Arctic warfare unit. There was a lot of cold weather training, and I was a medic for an infantry platoon. I took care of about thirty guys and treated basic injuries and illnesses,” said Yearwood. 

As the nation prepares to honor U.S. military veterans during the upcoming Veterans Day holiday, Yearwood said the day isn’t about him, but instead an opportunity to think about the brave men and women he served with in the Army.

“Any day that surrounds the military, it kind of puts me back in the thought process of being with the people I was with, the people we lost,” Yearwood said. “The military, it kind of reminds me of a time in my life when I did significant things and it drives me to keep moving forward.”

Just short of five years in the U.S. Army, Yearwood recalls enjoying a majority of his time in the Army. He did his training in San Antonio and then stationed in New York with the Tenth Mountain Division. Eventually he was stationed in Kentucky with the 101st AIrborne Division. 

Cold Georgia mornings are nothing compared to the cold weather that Yearwood would have to endure during his cold weather training in the Army. 

“Any day that surrounds the military, it kind of puts me back in the thought process of being with the people I was with, the people we lost,” Yearwood said. “The military, it kind of reminds me of a time in my life when I did significant things and it drives me to keep moving forward.”

“The training took place on the Canadian border. I think the coldest day we had there was negative 36. We would sleep outside and it would be like negative ten degree weather below freezing and we would stay outside for a week," recalls Yearwood.

“After my deployment in Afghanistan, I went to the 101st Airborne for a little over a year. That was pretty cool because it was aerosol, like helicopter insertions and I was on infantry the whole time.” 

After the 101st, Yearwood’s contract ended and he returned to the state of Georgia. He was twenty-four at the time and decided to go to college. He studied history for a bit at University of North Georgia until he decided he wanted to continue down the medical field. In nursing school he obtained his advanced EMT license.

“I went to Emory on a full ride scholarship for graduate school. Once I found what interested me I was able to excel, and I hope that is what happens with the kids. I want to help them find their passions,” said Yearwood.

Yearwood worked as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for Northeast Georgia Health System from 2016 to 2019. After graduate school, he was able to begin working as a Registered Nurse at Northeast Georgia Health System in Habersham. He worked there for nearly three years before beginning his position at Empower. 

Yearwood still serves as an Paramedic on weekends for Jackson County Emergency Services. Even while working five days a week at Empower College and Career Center, he manages to find time in his busy life to help others. 

“The bond and connections that I get to build with the students is my favorite part about this position. I want to make an impact on their lives and help them feel clear about what they want to do after graduation,” said Yearwood.

Yearwood teaches Intro to Healthcare, Essentials of Healthcare, Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) course, as well as an Emergency Medical Technician course. Both EMR and EMT classes result in certifications after their completion.  

Students get real life experience with ride-alongs with the EMT crew here in Jackson County. Yearwood’s students get excited to apply their classroom knowledge to real-life experiences with their ride-alongs. 

“I think it is important for students to see teachers doing their jobs,” Yearwood said. “Just the hands on experience, in general, they are able to connect stories and the training to real-life form. The other day, I had a student with me who had a pretty significant car wreck, and she was able to cut the person out of the car and helped ventilate that patient, who was pretty much on the throes of death,on the way to the hospital, and that person is now going to walk out of the hospital in a few weeks. 

“That student got to be a part of that. That will change her life. And not just in what she wants to do but her life in general. She knows she has it and she can do this.”

As a veteran who will be honored this weekend, and now a full-time educator inside of the Jackson County School System, Yearwood said he is excited about the future of the school system. He also was honored and excited about the system’s newest elementary school being named Heroes Elementary School, to honor the local heroes who serve and protect the nation and community each day. 

“I think it is difficult for people who are first responders, military, to accept praise and stuff,” Yearwood said. “When we are in it, it’s just us doing our jobs. But I think it is cool for the people I work with, because I get to see some people do some pretty amazing things. I have friends who I get to watch save lives and then we go get a burrito to eat afterwards. It is nothing to them. 

“When we are in it, we don’t get why people make a big deal about it. But after dipping my feet into both worlds, I think it is cool and the friends and people I work with deserve that respect because they do some awesome things.”