Body of soldier killed in Afghanistan returns home ahead of funeral in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ind. — A Hoosier hero returned home Tuesday as community members lined the streets to show their support in Columbus.

Photo of Jonathon Hunter courtesy of his father

Tuesday's procession from the Columbus Municipal Airport to Barkes, Weaver & Glick Funeral Home is the start of memorial events for 23-year-old Army Sgt. Jonathon Michael Hunter of Columbus. Hunter was one of two American soldiers killed in the Aug. 2 attack on a NATO convoy. Hunter's father says he was 32 days into his first deployment.

Hunter's body arrived around 10:40 a.m. on a military aircraft. The 4.5-mile procession began after his casket was unloaded from the plane.

Several dozen people gathered at the airport Tuesday morning to see the arrival.  Those gathered at the airport included high school friends of Sgt. Hunter and friends of his family.

“John’s the good guy," said classmate Kaitlin Stotts.  "John’t the break up the fights, wrap his arm around the guy and walk him to class to make sure he’s okay kind of guy.”

“This young man, I just can’t say enough about his family," said Kathy Tellas.  "And what they’re going to be going through today is going to be tough, just having him come home.”

He is survived by his wife, his parents, as well as his brother and sisters.

The 4.5 mile procession from the airport to the funeral home included hundreds of motorcycle riders from groups such as the Patriot Guard and American Legion Riders.  Hundreds of people lined the streets of downtown Columbus as the hearse arrived at the funeral home.  The crowd stood in the rain to bear witness to a hometown hero's journey home.

"He’s out there protecting and serving us, it’s a shame what happened to the man," said family friend Tommy Greenlee.  "Good kid, great athlete.  It’s a shame it happened.”

A visitation is scheduled this Saturday, August 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Columbus East High School Gymnasium. Hunter is a 2011 graduate of the school. The funeral service is set to begin at 2 p.m. at the high school.  He will be interred in a private ceremony with full military honors presented by the Indiana Army National Guard.

Memorial contributions in Hunter’s memory may be made to, Bartholomew County Humane Society; P.O. Box 1088, Columbus, IN 47202 or Brown County Humane Society; 128 South State Road 135, Nashville, IN 47448. Condolences can be left at this website.

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