Local residents will have three opportunities next week to pay their respects to a local soldier next week who died as a member of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan.
The remains of U.S. Army Sgt. Jonathon Hunter are scheduled to arrive at the Columbus Municipal Airport, 4770 Ray Boll Boulevard, at 10:40 a.m. Tuesday.
The public will be allowed to view the military plane coming in from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware as it lands in Columbus, said Rory Glick of Barkes, Weaver & Glick Funeral Home, which is handling funeral arrangements for Hunter’s family in coordination with military representatives.
Killed Aug. 2 in an attack on a NATO convoy in southern Afghanistan, Sgt. Hunter, 23, was the son of Mark C. Hunter of Columbus and Kimberly Thompson of Nashville, Indiana.
Due to public viewing-space limitations at the airport, Glick recommends that local residents pay their respects along the procession route from the airport to the funeral home, 1029 Washington St.
The 4½-mile procession is expected to begin at 11 a.m. Tuesday, about 20 minutes after the plane’s scheduled arrival.
Motorists will be asked to obey the commands of officers controlling traffic at major intersections between 11 and 11:30 a.m. as the procession moves from Columbus Municipal Airport on the following route:
- West on Arnold Street to Central Avenue
- South on Central Avenue to 25th Street
- West on 25th Street to Washington St.
- South on Washington to 1029 Washington St.
Two separate motorcycle groups formed to honor fallen American soldiers — The Patriot Guard Riders and the American Legion Riders — will join forces during Tuesday’s procession, Glick said. In addition, representatives of the Indiana chapter of Wish For Our Heroes, formed to help military personnel and their families, will also assist, he said.
Law enforcement offers will also participate in the procession, said Lt. Matt Harris, spokesman for the Columbus Police Department.
Next Friday evening, Sgt. Hunter will be honored at the annual rivalry football game between the Columbus East Olympians and Columbus North Bulldogs. The 7 p.m. game will take place at the John Stafford Athletic Complex in Clifty Creek Park.
A moment of silence will be observed during the pre-game ceremony before Hunter’s parents participate in the coin toss, East Athletic Director Pete Huse said.
Before graduating from East in 2011, Hunter wore number 22 as a running back and defensive end for the Olympians.
“His football family at East loved him,” Mark Hunter said in an interview the day after he learned his son was killed.
Although most current East players never met him, football coach Bob Gaddis said he took time recently to talk with his team about Hunter’s legacy.
Describing him as an unselfish player, Gaddis said he was impressed with how Hunter was willing to switch positions to better improve the performance of the entire team.
The community will have its third and final opportunity to pay their respects Aug. 26.
The official funeral service with full military honors will take place in the Columbus East High School gymnasium. Visitation at the gym will be from 10 a.m. until the 2 p.m. service, Glick said.
Details regarding speakers and format for the service will be discussed by the family this weekend, and should be finalized early next week, funeral home representative Coleman T. Glick said.
A private inurnment will be held at a later date.
Hunter was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 504th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
He was recipient of the following military recognition: Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officers Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Parachutist Badge, Basic Combat and Skills Badge, Basic Marksmanship, Qualification Badge (Expert), German Parachutist Badge (Bronze) and Overseas service bar.
Posthumously, Hunter was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Star, NATO Medal and Combat Infantryman Badge.
On Aug. 14, the father of Sgt. Hunter attended the Fayetteville, North Carolina, funeral of Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, who was killed in the same attack that claimed his son’s life.
Both a photograph of Sgt. Hunter, as well as a sign-in book for mourners of the Columbus native, were included in those services, Mark Hunter stated on his social media page.