Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Miles (Jonathan M.) Lankford dies 'of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident.'

A Texas soldier whose mother and brother live in Macon died in Iraq during the weekend, apparently of a heart attack, his family members said Monday. Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Miles Lankford was 42.

His body has been flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, and he will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, his mother, Mary Jo Lankford, said.

"He was doing what he loved to do," said Lankford, who has lived in Macon for about 2 years. "He loved the service. ... I'm very proud of him."

Lankford said family members can only point to stress and the intense Iraqi heat as possible reasons for Lankford's apparent heart attack. She said an autopsy has been requested.

"He was so fit," she said.

Sgt. Lankford's brother Taylor Lankford is a teacher at Rice Elementary School in Bibb County and is a Robins Air Force Base retiree. He said his brother "loved serving his country, he loved the Army and he loved his troops."

Taylor Lankford said his brother Miles - all three Lankford brothers are known by their middle names - could be both funny and very serious.

"Even though he's my younger brother, I drew a lot of my inspiration from him because of his drive," Taylor Lankford said.

Miles Lankford had a wife and one son, who will turn 3 soon, his mother said. He was assigned to the 79th Ordnance Battalion, which is based at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

From the Macon Telegraph

Scottsboro native Jonathan Miles Lankford fulfilled his life's ambition when he attained the Army's highest rank as an enlisted man, his mother, Mary Jo Lankford, said.

"It was a hard struggle for him," she said. "But he was determined to make sergeant major."

But it was the stress from leading a company of soldiers in the Iraq war that Lankford believes may have led to her son's death Saturday in Baghdad.

He died from an apparent heart attack, she said, while working out with his men, something they did every morning before they went to work.

At age 42, Lankford leaves behind his wife, Cheryl, and their 2-year-old son, Jonathan "Jon" Miles Jr. They live at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where Lankford's unit, the 79th Ordnance Battalion, is based.

Lankford served as command sergeant major of the battalion - an explosive ordnance disposal support group.

Funeral arrangements had not yet been made, but Mary Jo Lankford said her daughter-in-law was trying to get him buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Although Mary Jo Lankford said she had always feared that her son would be killed in combat, she never expected that he would lose his life this way.

"He was the baby in the family," she said. "He got along with his (two older) brothers. He was not much into foolishness. He was pretty much all business. It was part of his makeup."

In Iraq about a year

He and his unit were deployed to Iraq about a year ago and were scheduled to return home in January. "When I saw him off in October 2006 I just told him to be careful and 'I'll see you when you come home'," Lankford said. "Now, all we have are fond memories of him. But that's what we're going to cling to."

From the Huntsville Times