Wednesday, August 08, 2007

J.J. (Jon E.) Bonnell Jr. dies 'from wounds suffered while conducting combat operations'

J.J. Bonnell's grandmother asked him over the telephone three weeks ago to describe his second tour of duty in Iraq.

"He said his job was looking for bombs, and I said that's very dangerous," Donna Bonnell said. "He said, 'Grandma, that's my job.' I said, 'Watch your back,' and he said, 'We all watch everybody's back.' "

Sgt. Jon Bonnell Jr., a U.S. Marine from Fort Dodge who loved the pitcher's mound, Chris Farley movies and the Corps, was killed Monday in Iraq when he stepped on a roadside bomb while on duty between Baghdad and Fallujah.

The 22-year-old enlisted in the Marines before he graduated high school in 2003 and was on a quick climb up the leadership ladder, relatives said Tuesday.

His father, Jon Bonnell Sr., was notified of his only son's death early Tuesday. He's been in a state of shock, he said, since he answered the front door of the Bonnells' Fort Dodge home to see two uniformed Marines.

"I asked them if he was gone, and they didn't answer," he said.

Bonnell Jr. was in Anbar province when he was killed, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Bonnell was the 59th person with Iowa ties to die in the war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan since March 2003. As of Tuesday, at least 3,679 members of the U.S. military had died since the beginning of the Iraq war, according to an Associated Press count.

Bonnell Sr. said J.J. was the second-youngest of four children ages 13 to 28. Though Bonnell loved his country, he also loved to see the world and took the most pride in his effort to assist victims of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia after his first tour in Iraq. He left again on Memorial Day, and while proud, his father wasn't happy.

"I figured he had done it one time already," Bonnell Sr. said.

Bonnell Jr. picked up where he left off, on bomb detection duty.

"He had made it through doing the one job I wouldn't want him to do," his father said. "It scared me on the second time, but I'm a proud father knowing he was doing the job he was trained to do: Be a good Marine."

Bonnell was an honorable mention all-conference baseball player his senior year at Fort Dodge High School. He was fiercely competitive, yet loyal, friends said.

High school classmate and teammate Brian Courtney, now of Waterloo, said the two remained in contact.

"He was a great person. He always put other people first," Courtney said.

The two played baseball together from the sixth grade through graduation in 2003.

"We were good buddies," Courtney said. "It hasn't hit me yet; I don't think it will until I'm at the service. I left work early this morning so I could let my emotions out."

Bonnell Sr. took some solace from his son's sense of humor, honed by their favorite movie, "Tommy Boy."

"We would watch that movie over and over," Bonnell Sr. said. "Chris Farley was his favorite comedian. He had a tear running down when Farley died. I remember that. He couldn't believe it."

Funeral services for Bonnell will probably be held at First Christian Church in Fort Dodge, his grandmother said.

When asked whether her grandson would think himself a hero, she said it's unlikely.

"I imagine he thought they were all heroes," she said.

From the Des Moines Register