INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
An Indiana soldier who was just 32 days into his first deployment was one of
two American service members killed in a suicide bombing attack in
Afghanistan, military officials confirmed Thursday.
Mark Hunter said
members of the Indiana National Guard informed him Wednesday night that his
son, 23-year-old U.S. Army Sgt. Jonathon Michael Hunter, died in the attack
on a NATO convoy near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.
The Department of
Defense confirmed the deaths Thursday night. Officials also identified the
second soldier killed as Army Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, 25, of
Jackson Springs, North Carolina.
The U.S. military
in Afghanistan earlier said that four other American troops were wounded in
who grew up about 40 miles south of Indianapolis in the central Indiana
community of Columbus, left July 1 on his first deployment and was providing
security for the convoy that was attacked, his father said. He joined the
Army in 2014 and was a member of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne
Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Mark Hunter said
his son was excited about his first deployment, but that he, as an Army
veteran, was apprehensive.
“He had been there
32 days. I’m former military, me and his uncle both, so we know the
dangers,” Hunter told The Associated Press by phone from his home in
He said his son,
who got married last October and has an older brother and two stepsisters,
was cheerful, loving and religious.
“If you were down,
he would cheer you up and he was God-loving. He was raised in the church,”
The family later
issued a statement saying in part, “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.”
Hunter said he will
travel Friday to Dover Air Force Base to retrieve his son’s remains and that
funeral plans were being determined by him, Jonathon’s mother and Jonathon’s
from Columbus East High School in 2011, he said his son spent a short time
in Nashville, Tennessee, pursuing his dream of becoming a music producer
before he enrolled at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, where he
studied criminology and business.
But Hunter said his
son eventually left ISU and joined the Army in April 2014 because he didn’t
want to burden him with paying for his college.
“After he got into
school - and of course we were struggling with bills, to pay for it - he
decided to join. He said, ‘Dad, I know that going into the military I can
get a free education,’” Mark Hunter said.
He said his family
has a history of military service that dates back to the Civil War.
“I’m just proud of
him. He was a great soldier. He made (sergeant) in a little over three
years, which is pretty rare, they tell me,” Hunter said.
Hunter’s death, 207 Indiana service members had died since 2002 in the war
in Afghanistan and Iraq, or supporting those operations, said Tim Dyke,
director of training and services Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs. He
said that’s based on a tally produced by the agency’s former director.