Two Fort Bragg soldiers, both married in October and one whose wife is expecting their first child, were killed in a suicide attack August 2 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, officials say.
Sergeant Jonathon Hunter was been identified as one of the two soldiers killed, the Department of Defense said in a statement.
Hunter, 23, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 504th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the Pentagon said in a press release. Specialist Christopher Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina, was also killed in the attack.
“The entire Devil Brigade is deeply saddened by the loss of two beloved team members. Chris and Jon lived and died as warriors,” Colonel Toby Magsig, commander of 1st Brigade Combat Team, said in a statement from the 82nd Airborne. “They will always be a part of the legacy of the Devil Brigade and their memory lives on in the hearts and minds of their fellow Paratroopers. Our thoughts and prayers are centered on the families and loved ones of these two great Americans.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hunter & Harris Were Killed When a Vehicle-Borne IED Blew Up Near Their Convoy After 32 Days in Afghanistan
Sergeant Jonathon Michael Hunter, 23, and Specialist Christopher Michael Harris, 25, both members of the same Fort Bragg unit, were killed on August 2 in Kandahar “as a result of injuries sustained when a vehicle-borne improved explosive device detonated near their convoy,” the Department of Defense said Thursday.
Hunter’s father, Mark, a veteran, told the Associated Press that his son and their unit had been in Afghanistan for 32 days before the fatal attack. “I’m former military, me and his uncle both, so we know the dangers,” Hunter told the AP.
The NATO convoy was moving through the southern Afghan city when it was attacked by a Taliban suicide bomber, who rammed his vehicle into the convoy, the New York Times reports. Zia Durani, a spokesman for the Kandahar governor, told the Tiems that the convoy came under attack in the area of Shorandam, which is on the main road from Kandahar Airfield, one of the largest American bases in Afghanistan. Four others were wounded in the attack.
Another convoy was attacked Thursday night, with one NATO soldier killed and six others injured, according to Stars and Stripes. The soldier who died in that incident has not been identified. According to Stars and Stripe, the Taliban has not yet claimed responsibility for the Thursday attack, which occurred near Bagram Air Field, the largest military base in the country. According to Stars and Stripes, a “motorbike bomb” was the cause of the casualties Thursday.
Nine U.S. servicemen, including Hunter and Harris, have been killed in action in Afghanistan this year. It is not yet known if the soldier killed Thursday night was American or from one of the 38 other countries who make up the NATO coalition, according to Stars and Stripes.
2. Hunter, a Standout High School Football Player, Pursued a Music Career & Studied at Indiana State Before Joining the Army
Sergeant Jonathon Hunter was a standout football player at Columbus East High School in Indiana, his local newspaper, The Republic, reports. He graduated in 2011.
“He was a nice young man, a very unselfish player. He did everything we asked him to do,” his coach, Bob Gaddis said told the newspaper. Gaddis said Hunter was a running back for his first three years in high school, but switched to defensive end his senior season to help the team.
“It’s pretty tough when you lose someone that young,” Gaddis told the newspaper. “He was happy to serve his country. Unfortunately, he lost his life.”
He pursued a career in music, as a producer, in Nashville after high school, before enrolling at Indiana State University in 2014, studying criminal justice for a year, his father told the Associated Press. He then decided to join the Army, because he didn’t want to burden his father with his college tuition.
“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 told the AP.
Hunter’s father, Mark, told the Associated Press military service runs in the family, dating 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,” Mark Hunter said.
His mother, Kimberly Thompson, told The Republic, “I’m very, very proud of who he has become and what he did for our country.”
In a statement, his family said, “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.”
“I am saddened to hear that Columbus native, Jonathon Michael Hunter, has been killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan,” Senator Joe Donnelly said in a statement. “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.”
Senator Todd Young said, “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 added, “Sergeant Jonathon Hunter is a true American hero, and our entire nation grieves this loss. 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.”
3. He Was Married in October & His Father Says ‘If You Were Down, He Would Cheer You Up & He Was God-Loving’
Hunter married his wife, Whitney Stewart Hunter, on October 25, 2016, The Republic reports. He is also survived by his older brother and two stepsisters, his father told the Associated Press, and 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,” Mark Hunter told the AP.
Chesney Colleen Kelley Wilson, Whitney Hunter’s close friend, wrote on Facebook that Whitney told her, “‘He sacrificed his life [for our country] and in turn I sacrificed my husband.'”
Hunter, who enlisted in 2014, was in his first deployment, the 82nd Airborne said.
“Sgt. Jonathon Hunter was the leader we all want to work for – strong, decisive, compassionate, and courageous. He was revered by his Paratroopers and respected throughout his unit,” Colonel Toby Magsig said in a statement.
4. More Than $12,000 Has Been Raised to Help Hunter’s Wife & Family
Two GoFundMe pages, one set set up by Mark Hunter’s friend and another started by a friend of Whitney Hunter, have raised more than $12,000 for their families in a day. You can make a donation here or here.
“The funds will be used to help financially assist Whitney Hunter; the beloved wife of SGT Jonathon Hunter. SGT Hunter was KIA in Kandahar, Afghanistan on August 2nd, 2017,” Sierra Brown, Whitney’s friend, wrote. “Money should be the last thing Whitney has to worry about. Any sort of donation would be greatly appreciated during this trying time for Whitney, the family and friends who are suffering from this tragic loss. Thank you.”
Nancy Young, a high school classmate and friend of Mark Hunter, wrote on GoFundMe, “Mark’s family is loved by so many. On behalf of myself and all of Mark’s classmates at Columbus East High School, we would like to honor Jonathon by creating this gofundme site to financially help Mark and his family at this difficult time. Any sort of donation would be greatly appreciated during this difficult time for Mark and his the family. ”
5. Harris & His Wife Recently Learned She Was Expecting Their First Child
Specialist Chris Harris’ wife, Britt Harris, wrote on Facebook that they recently learned she is pregnant.
“As the news spreads about the two soldiers killed in action yesterday in Afghanistan it is with a very heavy and broken heart that I confirm one of them was my husband Chris Harris,” she wrote Wednesday night. “We had recently discovered I am in the very early weeks of pregnancy. Right now that is my main concern and I want to try and make sure everything continues to be healthy considering these crushing circumstances. I know you will all be respectful as I ask to be left alone. Thank you.”
Chris Harris, a North Carolina native, enlisted in October 2013, the 82nd Airborne said in a press release.
“Spc. Christopher Harris was an extraordinary young man and a phenomenal Paratrooper,” Colonel Toby Magsig said in a statement. “He regularly displayed the type of courage, discipline, and empathy that the Nation expects from its warriors.”
He married his wife, Britt, on October 16, 2015.
A GoFundMe page has also been set up to help Britt Harris and Chris’ family. You can make a donation to that fund here. More than $30,000 has already been raised.
“Britt has recently discovered that she and Chris were expecting their first child. During this time, money should be the absolute least important thing on her mind. If you feel it in your heart to donate to this cause, it would be kindly appreciated. Thank you all for reading our story,” Jenny Ann Stone wrote on the page.
Read more about Specialist Chris Harris at the link below: