LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Pfc. Jonathan M. Villanueva’s leaders and comrades gathered to honor their fallen 19-year-old infantry brother’s service and sacrifice on Combat Outpost Sultan Khel in Wardak province, Afghanistan, May 6.
Villanueva was an infantryman from Jacksonville, Fla., assigned to 4th Platoon, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Warrior, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, TF Patriot. He died as the result of wounds suffered from small-arms fire during an enemy engagement while providing security at a traffic control point in Wardak province April 27.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Thomas Rickard, TF Warrior commander, from Columbus, Ga., said Villanueva came from a strong, patriotic family – a family whose only two sons served in the nation’s Army during a time of war. Villanueva’s brother, U.S. Army Spc. Diego Villanueva is deployed to Afghanistan with 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, explained Rickard before asking, “How many families could suffer such a loss and have the faith to make the following statements earlier this week?”
“Becoming a soldier was a dream of his when he was younger. Jonathan left this world doing what he loved. His death, along with the other servicemen and women who have lost their lives since the Sept. 11 tragedy, were not in vain,” read Rickard from a Villanueva family statement. “Their efforts, combined, helped put an end to the evil of Bin Laden.
“We were always very proud of Jonathan for his accomplishments, and we will continue to be very proud,” said the Villanueva family. “Jonathan loved his job, uniform and country. He loved his family and friends. He lives within our hearts, and we will never forget the joy he has brought us. He will always be remembered as a true friend, a great son, a loyal brother and a hero to all.”
Rickard said Villanueva’s leaders and comrades are blessed to have served with such a man and are grateful for families like the Villanuevas. His family’s unyielding support motivates the unit’s Soldiers to remember Villanueva through continuing on with their mission.
“We can learn much from the example of the Villanueva family, who believe strongly in our cause, as they endure the pain of losing their son,” said Rickard.
“We, who serve today, are part of the most powerful family on this planet, as soldiers in the greatest Army the world has ever seen …. We respect every soldier in harm’s way who knows well the risks of our profession, the complexities of conducting counter-insurgency warfare and the frustration of fighting an enemy who tests us by attacking our moral obligations, from which he is unrestrained.”
U.S. Army Capt. James Gallagher, Company D commander, from Royal Oaks, Mich., said TF Warrior honors Villanueva’s wartime service to the nation, respects his bravery during multiple enemy engagements and remembers Villanueva for being a wonderful human being.
“Jonathan was everything a company commander could want from a soldier,” said Gallagher. “He was tough, motivated and selfless; he was a fine professional and a dedicated warrior.
“Losing ‘Villa,’ as we call him, has been tough on all of us, and we will always keep him in our memory for who he was and how he died – serving his country during war,” continued Gallagher. “We will always remember Jonathan was a good man, a role model to his fellow soldiers and a good friend.”
U.S. Army Pfc. Andrew Marcum, Villanueva’s Company D brother-in-arms from Schertz, Texas, said they were very good friends. They experienced Basic Combat Training and Airborne school together and often socialized together after work hours, he said.
“‘V’ was a pretty laid back guy, and you would usually catch him sleeping, eating or just watching something on his laptop; but as most of our platoon knows, mostly he would just sleep,” joked Marcum.
Marcum said Villanueva planned to re-enlist to attend Ranger school and go on to an assignment at a Ranger battalion. Had Villanueva been able to pursue his plans, he most likely would have successfully fulfilled his dreams, said Marcum.
“There is no doubt in my mind that he would be able to make it through anything put in front of him, but that is just the guy he was,” said Marcum. “He wasn’t just a good soldier though; he was also a very good friend. Anytime someone needed something, if he had it, he would help us out.
“Anytime someone had a problem he would be there for us,” continued Marcum. “He was just the kind of guy you were always able to count on – no matter what – when you needed him.”
Marcum and Villanueva used to tell each other they are “Brothers for life, in this life or the next,” said Marcum. "That will always stand true; and even though he may be gone, he will never be forgotten by any of us.”
Gallagher said Villanueva was an “ideal American” who was young, idealistic, brave and willing to risk his life every day for the safety of the United States, just like so many of his comrades who gathered to honor and pay respects to Villanueva that day.
“We owe it to his family and our fellow Americans back home to always honor his memory,” said Gallagher. “We owe it to tell our countrymen about his sacrifice and about who he was as a man. He was soft spoken, kind, tenacious in battle and a personal example of what makes our country great.”
Villanueva’s awards and decorations include the following: Bronze Star Medal; Purple Heart Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Afghan Campaign Medal, with one campaign star; Global War on Terror Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; NATO Medal; Overseas Service Ribbon; Combat Infantryman Badge