A Columbus East High School graduate who was killed in Afghanistan last summer during his first military deployment overseas has been added to the school’s Wall of Fame.

Jonathon M. Hunter, 23, was inducted posthumously and formally recognized by the Columbus East Alumni Association during halftime of the Columbus East boys basketball game against Franklin. Hunter, who graduated from East in 2011 and was a sergeant in the U.S. Army, was killed Aug. 2, 2017, during an

attack on a NATO convoy in southern Afghanistan.

He served in the military from April 8, 2014, until his death. Hunter was the son of Mark Hunter of Columbus, and Kimberly and Brian Thompson of Nashville.

Story continues below gallery

Hunter’s induction into the Wall of Fame means he joins 13 other Olympians who have been previously recognized for their accomplishments. He was represented by members of his family during the halftime presentation and during a pre-game reception in the school’s main lobby. That included his father, Mark Hunter; his widow, Whitney Hunter, of Fayetteville, North Carolina; her mother, Robin Stewart; his brother, Marcus Hunter; and his sister, Lindsey England.

Mark Hunter, who wore a green shirt with the words “Sgt. Jonathon Michael Hunter,” said he was appreciative of the community’s support.

“It’s been hard, and this makes it a little better he’s getting recognized for what he did,” Mark Hunter said.

Jonathon Hunter is the second member of the U.S. military to join the Wall of Fame.

The late Jeremy McQueary, who graduated from East in 2002, was inducted last year. McQueary was killed Feb. 18, 2010, in Afghanistan, at age 27, while conducting searches for improvised explosive devices, and had served in the Marine Corps.

Whitney Hunter said it was an honor to have Jonathon Hunter inducted into the Wall of Fame. She described her late husband as a humble individual, but she said he would have been excited to see everyone in attendance honoring him.

“To see the community come together to honor such a great guy, not only with him being a soldier and being a hero and sacrificing his life for everybody, but what a great guy he was. And for his high school to do something is just a really good indication of that,” Whitney Hunter said.

Whitney Hunter, Mark Hunter and England, who represented Kimberly and Brian Thompson, each received awards from the alumni association recognizing Jonathon Hunter’s induction. The awards, which read “Sgt. Jonathon Hunter, CEHS Wall of Fame,” included keepsake boxes for family members.

People in attendance during the presentation rose to their feet on both sides of the Columbus East gymnasium and applauded the family as part of the halftime recognition ceremony.

Whitney Hunter, who was embraced by Mark Hunter, wiped away tears as details about her husband’s military service were read aloud to those in attendance.

Chuck Wells, president of the alumni association and publisher of The Republic, said the alumni organization wants young people to look at the wall and recognize that there is a rich heritage of individuals who have made enormous contributions.

“I hope they aspire to be like people on this wall,” Wells said, describing Jonathon Hunter as being a hero.

England also spoke to those in attendance about her brother during the reception, saying he was a true American hero and a role model to others.

“He was humble and kind,” England said. “He grew to be a very respected leader.”

England also said that her brother’s contributions will always be remembered.

“A piece of our heart died that day, too,” she said. “As a decorated war hero, his sacrifice will never be forgotten.”

About Jonathon Hunter

The late Jonathon Hunter graduated from Columbus East High School in 2011 and played running back and defensive end for the East football team.

Hunter, 23, joined the U.S. Army on April 8, 2014, and served with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division stationed in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

Hunter, who held the rank of sergeant, was deployed to Afghanistan July 1, 2017, and was killed Aug. 2 in an attack on a NATO convoy in southern Afghanistan.

He is survived by his wife, Whitney Michelle Hunter of Fayetteville, North Carolina; his parents, Mark Hunter of Columbus, and Kimberly and Brian Thompson of Nashville; brother, Marcus Hunter of Indianapolis; sisters, Lindsey England and Kelsey Thompson of Columbus; brother-in-law, Andy England of Columbus; and other friends and relatives.

Author photo
Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com