Just after midnight on 27 May 2022, Lani left her family to join hands again with her husband of 54 years, Maj Gen James Arthur Young, USAF (retired), her son, 1LT Stephen Charles Young, USMC, her parents, LTC Costas John Carros USA (retired), and Doris Lorraine Carros (nee Chamberlain), her stepmother, Frances A. Carros (nee Reynolds) and her sister-in-law Norma Irene Barry (nee Young). She was 91 years young.
Surviving her are her brother, Roland Newell Carros and his wife Florence, daughter Phyliss Ann Davisson (nee Young), and sons Major James M. Young, USAF (retired) and his wife Trish, Major Richard C. Young, USA (retired) and his wife Kim, daughter in law, Linda Shepherd Corcoran and her husband Kim, her niece Michelle Anne Barry, five grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.
The United States military defined Lani’s life for her first 50 years. Her father immigrated to the United States from Greece in 1913. He enlisted in the US Army in 1920. Lani was born 17 July 1930 at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Not only was she a first-generation Greek, but she was also a Mayflower descendent on her mother’s side. Two years later, the family returned to the United States on a cruise ship, via the Panama Canal. This was the start of her life travel…and travel she did. When she was 18, she met a young Army airborne infantryman at the Officer’s Club pool at Ft Bragg. It was love at first sight. Two years later, on Dec 8, 1950, she married 1LT James A. Young USAF, in Waco, TX where “Jimmy” was undergoing pilot training. He had decided he’d rather fly airplanes than jump out of them, so he transferred to the USAF. Two months later, he graduated from undergraduate pilot training, and was selected to become a fighter pilot. Not bad for a guy deathly afraid of heights. Lani and Jim moved to Selma AL where he would undergo P51 training. There on 29 August 1951 she gave birth to James Michael. In Dec 1951, shortly after graduation, Jim left for combat in Korea and Lani and son moved to her parents’ home in College Park, GA. What follows is a testament to Lani’s incredible strength, courage, determination to be there for the love of her life. As her life unfolded, she would prove to be the ultimate military spouse…she was in it for the long haul…
A telegram arrived on 21 March 1952 advising Lani that Jim had been seriously injured in an aircraft accident and was not expected to live. His wounds were horrific. Over half his body was burned, 30% of those burns were third degree. He had compound fractures of his right leg from hip to ankle; five fractures in his face, fractures of his back and skull, multiple lacerations, and internal injuries. The left side of his face had been destroyed…no eyelid, no eyebrow, mouth torn in a jagged smirk, left ear partially missing, portion of his nose was gone, his chin was crushed and all the hair on his left temple was gone.
But live he did.
Lani put him on her back and gave him all the tools he needed to first survive, then deal with pain the likes of which cannot be fathomed, deal with the disfigurement, deal with depression, drug, and alcohol addiction, learn how to walk and help him believe he could once again fly. And she made him a father again. Stephen Charles was born at Sampson AFB 30 June 1954. After 40 months and 58 major operations, they left for Langley AFB where Jim was assigned as a maintenance officer. He wanted none of that and against all odds, convinced the flight surgeons and the pilots he could fly. The USAF returned Jim to flying duty in 1956.
In the first six years of marriage, Lani moved six times. Lani relocated her nest 13 times over the next 24 years. And she made the moves by herself. Jim always went ahead to get situated. Lani gave birth to Richard Carros on 11 January 1958 and three months later boarded a plane with three kids under the age of 7 to join Jim in France. Phyliss Ann joined the family, 4 Jan 1960. After four years at Langley in a staff job, Jim was reassigned to Seymour Johnson AFB, Goldsboro NC. In December 1965 Jim deployed on his second combat tour at Takhli RTAFB Thailand, flew 100 missions over Hanoi, the most heavily defended city on earth, earning two Silver Stars in the process. By this time Lani was the senior spouse in the squadron. It fell upon her to help the spouses cope with the stress of having a husband in combat. Potluck dinners, dinner at the club, lunch, bridge was part of the routine. And it was her responsibility to accompany the chaplain to inform a wife in the squadron that her husband was not going to return. While Jim was in combat, she took up painting to take her mind off the “what if”. She became quite proficient and one of her paintings hung in the Officer’s mess in Takhli until the base closed in the mid-seventies. In 1969 Lani returned to the land of her birth. While in Hawaii, Jim did his third and final combat tour at UBON RTAB, Thailand flying 105 missions. Shortly before the end of his tour in March 1972, Jim was medevacked to Wilford Hall with blood poisoning. The crushed right ankle had a chronic infection that had never healed. Jim had to tape a gauze pad on it every day to capture the drainage. He was one of the first people to undergo hyperbaric oxygen wound treatment. He “graduated after forty dives” and returned to Hawaii for a tour at CINCPAC HQs. His ankle was free of infection for the first since 1952. They then did a tour in Washington State where Lani, Rick and Phyliss learned to ski. All three of them became quite good. Jim had another tour of a hospital. He came down with a bout of diverticulitis and had to have portions of his bowels removed; unfortunately, an infection developed, and he had acute peritonitis which necessitated several surgeries. He again came close to not making it, but Lani was there to make sure he recovered. After a short stint in Washington DC they arrived in Ankara, Turkey in 1977 right when the Islamic Revolution was beginning. After two years of touring Pakistan, Iran, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Greece they decided it was time to retire. Their last assignment was to Albuquerque, NM. Three months after they arrived in 1979, the unthinkable happened. Steve was killed while flying a mission off the USS Iwo Jima August 8, 1979. His wife Linda was five months pregnant. Lani was painting a portrait of Steve when she was notified of his death. She never picked up a brush again until the last year of her life. In January 1980 Linda gave birth to Steven James, Lani’s first grandson. His birth provided Lani and Jim comfort, but Steve’s death left scar tissue on their hearts that would never be undone.
Lani had traveled the world for 50 years before putting down roots in Albuquerque NM. She put down deep roots; 41 years of roots. She and Jim joined Far Hills Country Club, and together they played golf, and took up bridge again. Lani took up tennis and played many years at the Highpoint Tennis club with her best buds, Dee Lea, and Chris Shinkle. Every winter those three would travel Colorado, Canada, or Utah to ski. She also became a master gardener. She put in koi ponds, roses, pyracantha, and more wildflowers than you can count. Her son Rick rebuilt those koi ponds several times over the years and patterned his own gardens after Lani’s. She also had become an extraordinary cook. As the kids went to college, they always were asking her to give them recipes for family favorites. She finally decided to publish all the recipes she and Jim had collected over their 50 years together and gave them to the kids. And now the grandkids have a copy. The Young Family Cookbook is a classic.
Even though Lani had set down deep roots, she never lost the urge to travel. Jim decided he had enough fun, so Lani traveled the world with Dee and Chris. Together they saw China, Russia, Italy, Spain, Egypt, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Denmark, Norway and places in Germany and France that she missed while stationed in France.
Eight years before Jim died, he quit playing golf. That should have been a warning sign; he started having memory issues; Lani started handling several tasks that had always been Jim’s. By the grace of God, he never forgot Lani’s name. His trust in her was absolute. She had seen him through a lot of challenges, had given him the freedom to be a combat fighter pilot, and enabled him to live at home as he became more forgetful and disoriented. Jim died 14 Jan 2005 at the age of 78. Lani lived 17 years after Jim, keeping busy with family, friends and travelling. Her daughter Phyliss stayed with her for four years enabling her to continue to stay in her home. As her health deteriorated her son Richard and his wife Kim took over and helped Lani settle her estate and brought her to their home in Alabama. Her mind was still sharp, but she was not very mobile. So, she decided to pick up her pallet and brush for the first time since Steve’s death. And she decided to learn a new medium – acrylics. She was quite studious as she taught herself this new medium…she always pushed the envelope. She completed over 15 paintings in the nine months prior to her passing.
In closing, Lani wrote her life story for her family to pass down for generations to come. She became an expert genealogist and traced the historic lineage of the Young family, the Carros family, the Chamberlain family and captured the dates of all the marriages, divorces, and childbirth of her progeny.
She was the epitome of a military wife and confidant; she was the true matriarch.
Lani will rest eternally beside her husband Jim in the Santa Fe National Military Cemetery. A small service will take place in the VA Cemetery Courtyard on 17 June at 1130 hours, MDT prior to her internment. In lieu of flowers, should you choose, please donate to the New Mexico Animal Friends in her name.
“In my life, I’ve lived, I’ve loved, I’ve lost, I’ve missed, I’ve hurt, I’ve trusted, I’ve made mistakes, but most of all, I’ve learned.”