INDIANAPOLIS — 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, his father said 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 Defense Department announced Thursday evening the names of both soldiers killed in the attack. Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina, also died of injuries from the IED blast near their convoy, DoD said in a release.
Both soldiers were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 504th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, DoD officials said.
The U.S. military in Afghanistan said Thursday that four other American troops were wounded in the bombing.
Jonathon Hunter, 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.
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 Columbus.
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,” he said.
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 wife, Whitney.
After graduating 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 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 of 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.
Before Jonathon Hunter’s death, 207 Indiana service members had died since 2002 in the war in Afghanistan or 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.