COLUMBUS, Ind. – A local Hoosier was one of two U.S. service members killed in an attack in Afghanistan.
Jonathon Michael Hunter of Columbus, Indiana, was killed when a suicide bomber rammed a car filled with explosives into a NATO convoy outside Kandahar. The Taliban took responsibility for the attack.
"I got a call from the National Guard and at first, didn't think anything of it," said Hunter's father, Mark Hunter as he recalled how he received the news about his son's death. "So I got to thinking, and rushed home. When I got there, they were getting out of the car and I saw the chaplain markers and I knew right then."
Mark had several family members at his home Thursday as they all shared stories of their loved one. He said his son enlisted around April of 2014.
“He said dad, I’ve joined the Army," Mark Hunter said. "I said why? And he goes, I don’t want you to pay for my college.”
Mark said that was always how his son thought. Always putting others before him, and always felt he would make a great leader.
In June, Jonathon was promoted to Sergeant. His first mission began July 1.
Jonathon got married last October and spoke to his wife every day, according to Mark. The last time the two of them spoke was Saturday.
"He talked about how bored he was," Mark recalled. "He said all they were doing was some security detail with some other countries. And he mentioned how glad he was that he had joined the Army."
Another unidentified soldier was killed, and four others were wounded in the bombing.
Mark said his son played a variety sports in high school for at least one year, but played football all four years.
“What he represents is what you hope your kids represent as they go become young adults," Bob Gaddis, the school's football coach, said. "He was that kind of a young man. He used a lot of what he learned, told us he did, and he’s a guy we’re very proud of.”
Gaddis said Jonathon wrote him a letter during boot camp. He told he had decided to join the Army and how much he was enjoying it. The coach said he wanted to find the letter to give it to Jonathon's father.
Vice President Mike Pence released a statement regarding Hunter's passing:
"Karen and I join the Columbus community and every American in honoring the service and mourning the passing of a courageous American, Sergeant Jonathon Hunter. Sgt. Hunter was a proud Hoosier and an American hero – and his legacy will ever be enshrined in our hearts. Our prayers will be with Sgt. Hunter's wife Whitney, his parents, his brother Marcus, and all of his loved ones and friends.”
According to BCSC, this is the second Columbus East graduate that has given his life for his country while serving in Afghanistan. In 2010 Jeremy McQueary was killed while conducting searches for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDS). He was 27-years-old.
Hunter's family released the following statement:
"Our family is deeply saddened and distressed to learn of the death of our very much loved one. Jonathon not only was loved by his immediately family but by his extended family and community.
Our hearts are aching for Jonathon as well as for his brother in arms who died with him and those who were injured. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all during this hour of grief. Our heartfelt love goes out to his wife, Whitney Michelle Hunter, and his devoted mother, Kimberly Thompson.
Sgt. Jonathon Michael Hunter served with the Army in the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82 Airborne Division, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.
Jonathon was intelligent and one of the sweetest, most generous, outgoing,
God-loving people we know. We are so appreciative of the outpouring of community support; their stories and love helps us get through this tragedy.
Jonathon loved his unit and serving his country and was excited about the opportunity to go to Afghanistan to do his part in fighting injustice. Jonathon, always interested in family history, was touched by how his great-great-great-great uncle, John Copeland, had made a difference in this country and he wanted to do the same.
Copeland fought courageously with John Brown at Harper’s Ferry to secure the freedom of slaves prior to the Civil War. His action was one that initiated the war just 18 months later.
Jonathon comes from an exceedingly long history of committed and loyal family members – men and women – who have fought in the military since the Revolutionary War.
I know Jonathon would want us to get rid of the hate and division in this world, and that’s why he did his part to make peace.
Despite our pain, we could not be prouder of him!"
The Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. released the following statement regarding Hunter's death:
"The BCSC family is mourning the loss of one of our own. This morning we confirmed that Jonathon Hunter, a 2011 graduate of Columbus East High School, was one of two United States soldiers killed in a suicide bombing attack on a NATO convoy in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, August 2, 2017. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Hunter family, friends, and the BCSC community during this difficult time. We express our deep appreciation for all who have served and continue to serve, in the military in order to protect the rights and freedoms we are blessed to have."
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) issued this statement:
“I am saddened to hear that Columbus native, Jonathon Michael Hunter, has been killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan. His service and sacrifice in defense of our country will never be forgotten. My prayers and condolences go to his family, friends, fellow soldiers, and the entire Columbus community.”
Sen Todd Young (R-IN) issued this statement:
“On behalf of every Hoosier and all Americans, I offer my heartfelt condolences to the family of U.S. Army SGT Jonathon Michael Hunter. We are immensely grateful for his service and ultimate sacrifice,” said Sen. Young. “By all accounts, SGT Hunter was a man of notable kindness to his friends and loved ones, great athletic talent, and he selflessly and honorably served his country. I am saddened by the news of his passing, but proud of the man that he was.”
Rep. Luke Messer (R- IN 06) issued this statement:
“Sergeant Jonathon Hunter is a true American hero, and our entire nation grieves this loss,” Messer said. “My thoughts and prayers are with Sergeant Hunter’s family, friends and the entire Columbus community. Sergeant Hunter gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country. His bravery and legacy will live on.”