Monday, August 13, 2007

Army Sgt. Jonathan M. Forde

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Jonathan M. Forde, 26, of Vienna, VA.

Family, Guard Mourn Soldier
Sgt. Jonathan Forde of Vienna died last week from meningitis at training in Wisconsin.
By Scott J. Krischke

Services and Memorial Fund
Jonathan Forde will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday, Aug. 24. Funeral services will be held at the Money & King Funeral Home in Vienna on Thursday, Aug. 23. The Forde family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Jonathan Forde Scholarship Fund at Gonzaga College High School, 19 Eye St. NW, Washington, DC, 20001.

While in Iraq, Sgt. Jonathan Forde was the soldier who liked to take care of stray cats.

"He loved the cats, loved feeding them," said 1st Sgt. Nathan Rigney, who served as Forde's supervisor in Iraq from Feb. 2004 to early 2005. The two Virginia National Guardsmen were stationed together in the 237th Engineer Company during a 12-month tour throughout the country.

But it wasn't just his love for Iraq's stray cats that set him apart from other soldiers, Rigney added. Forde would regularly volunteer to lay down cover for Rigney on missions as his gunner.

"He was salt of the earth, very knowledgeable, very kind, very disciplined, he was honorable and never afraid to go on a mission," Rigney said. "His word was his bond ... you knew he would never let you down."

While training with his unit at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin in advance of a second tour of duty in Iraq, Forde fell ill with meningcoccal meningitis. He died on Aug. 13. The decorated combat veteran and lifetime Vienna resident was 26 years old.

FORDE IS BEST remembered growing up by his mother Kathryn Forde-Cosby as a creative and artistic child, and one who loved to play sports. A graduate of the Jesuit Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., Forde was a starting mid fielder on the school's lacrosse team.

"He was the best son that anyone could ever hope for," said his mother, Kathryn Forde-Cosby. "He is a hero as far as we are concerned."

But the events of Sept. 11, 2001 struck particularly close to home when a close family friend was killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

"That had a profound effect on him," said Kathryn Forde-Cosby. "I suppose patriotism after 9/11 really prompted his joining and wanting to serve his country."

Forde enlisted in the beginning of 2002 to the Virginia National Guard Reserves while a student in college at James Madison University. The first-generation American son of British naturalized immigrants to the United States, felt that it was his duty to do what he could to protect his country, according to his mother.

In a little more than two years, the 23-year-old was serving on combat duty in Iraq.

"He matured a lot faster than he had at any given time before that," said his stepfather of 21 years, Taylor Cosby. "In a situation like that, when you say that you're going to do something you have to do exactly that."

"After he came back he was much older. You could sense that."

THE MODEL SOLDIER, Forde was always the man to depend on in tense situations, according to Rigney.

"They say that you don't know how you'll act in a foxhole until you're in one," he said. "But I always wanted him in my foxhole."

And his devotion to his mission and skill as a soldier and a leader did not go unnoticed by the Virginia National Guard. When Forde underwent training to advance to the level of Sergeant upon his return from Iraq, he finished in the top five percent of his class.

"It was such a proud event, because it's almost like your own son accomplishing that," Rigney said. "He wasn't just a performer at that point, people looked up to him, he was a leader. You could count on him without question."

HIS DEATH was felt throughout the company in the midst of training for Iraq, according to his supervisor, Capt. Beau Mason, stationed at Fort McCoy.

"He was one of our brothers and we take it hard when we lose any member of our family," he said in a phone interview. "In a combat zone, you're fighting the enemy, but when you're dealing with a bacteria, you're only fighting frustration."

Mason said that Forde's fellow soldiers remembered him as an "outstanding leader" during a memorial service held at the base last weekend.

And Forde's legacy of public service will not go unrequited. His family has set up a memorial scholarship fund at Gonzaga College High School.

Forde, who is one of at least two graduates of Gonzaga to die while in service since 9/11, embodies many of the values the school looks to impart to students, according to Steve Langevin, Gonzaga public relations director.

"They provide an excellent example of service to others and service to the community that our students learn here," he said. "We would hope that current and former students can take these men as an example for their selfless service."

That drive to support his fellow soldiers, his community and to volunteer during a time of war is one of the main characteristics that set Forde apart from others, according to Cosby.

"He did things that most people never would have done," he said. "In a world where 98 percent of people would have stayed back and taken advantage of the comforts of our country and watch TV, he was out there volunteering to serve his country overseas.

"I think that, more than anything, says what type of person he was."

Army Sgt. Jonathan M. Forde died on 8/13/07.

1 comment:

usaukok9 said...

He was my nephew; my sister's son!
Good guy!

Nick Summers
Retired LEO 34 yrs 4 months