Sunday, March 14, 2010

Marine Cpl. Jonathan D. Porto

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Cpl. Jonathan D. Porto, 26, of Largo, Fla.

Cpl. Porto was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died March 14, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Two years after signing up with the U.S. Marine Corps partly because he couldn't get a job in his own country, Jonathan Porto was killed in Afghanistan on Sunday, leaving behind a new bride and an infant daughter he never got a chance to hold.

"I'm going to ask people to refer to him only in the present,'' his father, Steve, said while en route to Dover Air Force Base to receive the 26-year-old man's coffin.

"He has a spirit, he has a life, he has a soul," Steve Porto said. "Jon IS a good guy." Also receiving the coffin will be Jonathan Porto's mother and his wife of 10 months, Rachel.

A corporal, Porto was a small arms repair technician assigned to 1st Battalion 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

His mother, Rachel Bernaby, and stepfather, Brian, were not at their St. Petersburg home Tuesday afternoon. An American flag and a red Marine Corps flag were at half-staff outside their front door.

Porto was born in St. Petersburg and has seven brothers and sisters, said his uncle, Craig Gregoire. The Department of Defense reported that Porto was from Largo.

"It's a tragedy all the way around," he said.

Gregoire said he spoke with his sister, Porto's mother, early Monday. She said Porto had been killed when a vehicle he was in flipped and he was pinned under the wreckage, Gregoire said.

He graduated from Timberlane Regional High School in Plaistow, N.H., in 2002, according to associate principal John Leary. Leary remembered Porto as a hands-on learner who was a good kid. Finding out Porto ended up with the Marine Corps "did not surprise me," he said.

Gregoire, of Hendersonville, N.C., said he thought his nephew "found a sense of purpose" in the Marine Corps. Gregoire's wife, Renae, said she and her husband were saddened by their nephew's death, but comforted knowing he was now with his grandmother, Annette Gregoire, who died March 15, 2001 — nine years ago almost to the day of Porto's death.

"Whenever I saw him at a family gathering, he gave hugs freely, smiled widely and often, and pretty much made me feel cheerful and welcomed," Renae Gregoire said.

Sonya Porto, 33, said her brother was in a convoy in the Helmand province of Afghanistan when the truck he was in went off course and tumbled. He got caught underneath and was killed. "It's pretty haunting, it's pretty sad," she said from her home in Missouri. "He's one of eight kids. We're grieving. We're really close."

She said her brother and his wife were married in May and had a daughter in January. Porto's father said his son never got a chance to hold his newborn daughter and saw her only in pictures.

Sonya Porto described her brother as "probably the most fun" of the eight siblings. "He had a heart of gold and he really wanted to make sure everyone was OK."

"A lot of reasons he was in the military is jobs are so hard to find," Steve Porto said.

Porto's awards include the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and NATO International Security Assistance Force Medal.

Marine Cpl. Jonathan D. Porto was killed in action on 3/14/10.

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