“Jonathan was the youngest. He had four older sisters. We were both married before, but we were so close-knit for a blended family. We got married when Jonathan was only five, so as the youngest, he was brought up being able to hold his own. He played football, baseball, really all of the youth sports, and he especially loved lacrosse. But he also had this really artistic side. His fiancée, Brandy Carter, was an art teacher at Madison High, and they both loved to paint.
“When he was in high school, he really wanted a car. So he saved his money and bought a 1981 Camaro – he was kind of a renaissance man. We had so many problems with that car. We spent so much time tinkering with it. Jonathan had lots of different friends, from all different categories of life. Sports, arts… he was never influenced by anyone else; he really was one of those kids who just got along with everybody.
“When 9/11 happened, Jonathan wanted to do something. Our oldest daughter, Susannah, lost her best friend in the first Tower. There is a picture of her at the memorial at Ground Zero. It was a very personal occurrence for us.
“We’re pretty military oriented. Two of his grandparents were British Aviators in WWII, and both his dad and another grandpa were Marine Corps Officers. Jonathan looked around and found the Virginia National Guard Combat Engineering Battalion. The Virginia National Guard was the first created in the country. We thought it was great.
“In 2003 – 2004 Jonathan was deployed. Right before Christmas, there was a suicide bomber in Mosul. 11 soldiers were killed, and 3 from his unit. We heard about it on the news. He didn’t talk about it much. When he got home, he went back to school at Virginia Commonwealth University in the Engineering Program, and his unit activated again. He said it was what he signed up for; it was his duty to do it.
“I was on the phone with him one day while he was in training stateside, and he said he had a slight cold. He was never one to complain. The phone rang at 5:30 the next day and I was just getting home from work. Jonathan was in the hospital. The doctor said, ‘I have your son here, he’s very sick. His blood pressure keeps dropping.’ I called back at 9:00 and they still didn’t know what was wrong with him. They had just had shift change and they were medevacing him to the Mayo Clinic. Next thing I know, I was called at 10:30pm. He had died in the helicopter en route to Mayo.
“It was Meningococcal Meningitis. I couldn’t understand why on earth they didn’t know that before. It was a crowded training environment; he had a fever and a neck ache. We had so many questions. Jonathan was the acting Platoon Sergeant. I know he didn’t feel good, but he kept going because he was responsible for all of those kids. We heard from the governor of Virginia, the Commanding Officer of the Virginia National Guard and our community rallied around us. They handled this horrible experience with so much compassion and care.
“I never saw Jonathan quit anything. That’s just the way he did things. He was everything you could ask for in a son, really. He’d do anything for anyone. You’d see him in a uniform being a warrior and then 10 minutes later you’d see him with a paintbrush, painting. And he used to have people in stitches with his imitations. He did a really impressive Christopher Walken and a lot of Saturday Night Live skits.
“It’s been 10 years since Jonathan died. We miss him every day. But the community we live in has helped us through. Jonathan’s high school, Gonzaga, is known for their camaraderie and spirit, and we felt that when we lost him. The year after he died, the whole lacrosse team wore his number for the season. Vienna Youth Sports established a lacrosse scholarship in Jonathan’s name and present it annually at a banquet to a high school lacrosse player. And Jonathan worked as a trapper at the Bull Run Shooting Center when he was in school. They established an annual shoot in June called the Jonathan Forde National Sporting Clays Tournament.
“The last thing you want is for your child to be forgotten. What Gold Star families really need is for their loved one to be remembered. Do whatever you can to help keep their memory alive, keep their name alive. We are so grateful so many people remember our Jonathan.”