By Andy Wolf
A beloved Army veteran and social media fitness influencer has tragically taken her own life, mere days after her daughter’s birthday.
On the surface, Michelle Young may have just looked like another patriotic American fitness influencer, one in a sea of countless others at a time when any young woman with a good physique can generate followers and clicks on social media.
However, Young was also known as “Staff Sergeant Young,” a two-time veteran of the 20-year US conflict in Afghanistan, enlisting at seventeen years of age.
Young could have weaseled out of her 2021 deployment— after all, she was a mother with a lengthy career history. But instead, she deployed in what would be the closing chapter of a complicated war in the “Graveyard of Empires.”
“I was in the military before I became a mother,” Young wrote on Instagram. “I volunteered for this life, she didn’t. She’s had to be away from her only parent during multiple deployments, TDYs, and training, yet she never complains.”
In 2021, Young had sixteen years in when she decided to finish her career strong, going for the full twenty-year commitment to the United States Army.
In addition to serving her country, Young also worked with the homeless, the troubled, and others who were in crisis.
Urged to action by the suicide of her brother, Young found comfort in helping others.
“That day forever changed my life,” she recounted in a social media post. “But it also created a passion for helping others that I don’t think I would have had if I didn’t experience the pain of losing him.”
Young was also beloved for her social media fitness posts, where she inspired people to become better versions of themselves.
However, no amount of good deeds done for others can truly replace the healing effects of good deeds done to ease one’s own suffering, and Young’s own personal demons became too much to bear.
Her friends have been left with more questions than answers, and her daughter —who turned 12 only a few days prior to Youngs’s suicide— has been left to navigate the world without her mother.
A GoFundMe set up in her honor was filled with tales by donors, stories that chronicled Youngs’s commitment to service.
“Michelle and I embarked on the journey of a lifetime together a year ago to fly halfway across the country to save a group of unwanted, at-risk dogs,” Brooke L. wrote. “Our plane ended up with an oil leak while flying over the Appalachians. Needless to say, ending up on this journey with Michelle, of all people, provided such comfort— I felt so safe with her. Long story short, with a broken down plane, our options were either go to the nearest airport and fly home, leaving the dogs behind, or begin the 30+ hour journey home in a rickety old van full of smelly dogs. We chose the latter, and I am forever thankful that we did. We laughed so hard, so many times, throughout this trip. The ridiculousness of it all. How hungry we were. How tired we were. How horrible we smelled. We had no choice throughout this trip other than to be our truest selves, and by the end, we’d each found a lifelong friend in one another. She was so fierce, and so funny, and will be really, truly missed.”
“Michelle, I just talked to you Wednesday,” Chris Costello added. “I can’t believe this terrible news. You were a good soldier and an amazing mother. Rest in peace.”
For Staff Sergeant Michelle Young, there is no more suffering. For everyone else who knew her, however, a wound has been opened — one that will take a long time to heal, if not an eternity.
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