The 35th Infantry Regiment Association salutes our fallen brother, SGT Jonathan Lootens, who died in the service of his country on October 15th, 2006 in Kirkuk, Iraq. The cause of death was listed as Improvised Explosive Device. At the time of his death Jonathan was 25 years of age. He was from Lyons, New York.
The decorations earned by SGT Jonathan Lootens include: the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart,
Jonathan is buried in St Francis Cemetery, on Church St in Phelps, NY
(Jim Hall Reports on he and Mike Slyck Attending The Funeral)
Just got home from Phelps, NY.
The viewing yesterday and last night was quite a large affair. The town of Phelps is one of the bigger towns in the immediate area but is still quite small. I drove through about 2:30 yesterday afternoon on my way to the motel. I wanted to locate the funeral home for my visit there in the evening.
As I drove through it was drizzling rather hard and there was a bitter wind. The temperature was about 35 degrees.
It was easy to locate the funeral home even from over a block away as I approached because there was a long line on the sidewalk in front of it. The line stretched out the door, down the front walk and then curved to cover the whole sidewalk in front of the funeral home and the house next door. There was easily over 100 people waiting to get in in the rain.
I noted that in the whole town perhaps 30 - 40 blocks long there were American stick flags set in the ground on both sides of main street (State Road 96) about 100 feet apart. The funeral home flag and a couple of other flags in town were set at half mast.
To me this was impressive in that Jonathan Lootens did not even live in this town (His family had roots in a couple of other nearby towns).
I had arranged to meet Mike Slyck in time to attend the evening viewing at 7 PM. We arrived close to 7 and found again that the line extended out the door and down the sidewalk pretty much as I had seen it in the afternoon.
The rain had stopped but the wind picked up even more and it was bitter cold out there. We stood in the line until nearly 8:30 before we made it inside the door (and the warmth). Once inside the line snaked around still further and it was nearly another half hour until we reached the receiving line of family.
As we neared the receiving line we spotted a young soldier standing in the alcove in dress greens with Cacti emblems on each shoulder. We squirmed out of line and worked our way over (By the way I should point out at this time that there was a couple of Army enlisted men - I'm not sure from where but not Cacti -- standing as an honor guard at the casket).
We finally reached the young Cacti and were able to talk for a few minutes. He was Specialist Boatman from Charlie Co 2/35th. (He was a bit on the quiet talking side and I am more than a bit deaf.) I asked if he escorted the body home and he said yes. I asked if he came from Iraq and he seemed to say yes but then said he came in from Hawaii so I am not clear on this(He was wearing a CIB). But he was the escort.
No need to say this but he was a very sharp looking troop (as they all seem to be these days).
Unfortunately my hearing and the extremely crowded conditions of the funeral home just did not make for a good conversation and I feared that we might be keeping him away from his assigned duties. So the visit with him had to be very short. Nice young man and a very tough duty. We all owe him much thanks.
Mike and I worked our way back into the receiving line. There were a large number of people standing in the line and I could not tell for the most part who was who. I saw towards the end of the line agentleman who I was sure was Mr. Lootens (the Father). There were ladies on either side of him and I assumed that one was the Mother (Mrs. Qualtieri).
In the very beginning of the line was a young man and a young lady and then a young looking woman who I thought might be one of the Aunts. We talked to this lady first and she mentioned my "Cacti Forever" patch on my short. She then said that there was a Cacti emblem outside "Jon's" unit area in Hawaii. Mike Slyck then nudged me to tell me that the young man was the brother-in-law and I turned my attention to him and he introduced his wife (Jonathan's sister) and I gave my condolences. We then had to move on with the line and finally got to the Father and he was very appreciative of seeing us. He was truly a proud but desolate Father) I gave our condolences and then asked which of the women on either side was the Mother. I was embarrassed then to learn that neither were and that actually the very first woman (who mentioned the "Cacti Forever" patch) was the Mother.
I then attempted to go back and apologize for not being aware of this and offer proper condolences but it turned out that just the shear volume of people in line prohibited me from doing this.
I carried with me 3 of our agreed on condolence letters. Again the volume of people prevented me from actually presenting these personally. Had I of done this then the family members would of been forced to take time out of the receiving line just to do something with these.
They had a table to collect all cards and the like near the guest register and I deposited these there. They will get them along with the hundreds of other cards. They were aware that we were in attendance and I believe that they truly appreciated it.
The experience of the viewing was quite moving. Just to see how many people took the time out to show the family support (and in doing so in my mind to show support to our troops) brought a lump of pride to my throat.
From 10NBC/WHEC regarding Jonathan Lootens:
A small community remembers soldier killed in Iraq
Specialist Jonathan Lootens was in his second tour of duty in the War on Terror when he was killed Sunday. Lootens, 25, grew up in Newark, and joined the military after September 11th. He was killed in a roadside bombing near Baghdad. Looten's death is the second to shake the Phelps - Clifton Springs area since the start of the war. People in the Phelps community says the loss of this local soldier still hasn't sunk in yet. But being a small community, this is the time they all pull together to help the family. "It's a parent's worst nightmare," Jonathan Lootens father, Bob, said. Bob Lootens says just before work Monday, two uniformed soldiers were at his door. "I hope no other family or friends or relatives have to have those two uniformed officers come to their door and let them know their soldier has given his life for their country," Lootens said.
Phelps is a community where everyone knows everyone. At the American Legion, many vets knew the family. John Maslyn knew Lootens' grandfather. "He's proud of what he did," Maslyn said. "Very proud of his son going in and his grandson. It was kind of a family thing." A wall at the American Legion pays tribute to all the soldiers from the area. Lootens picture hangs has a reminder along with Heath McMillin. McMillin was also from this small community, just down the road in Clifton Springs. He was killed in Iraq in 2003. "It hits the community
hard, but especially the family," Maslyn said.
Local vets are ready to help out the family any way they can, they say
they're just waiting for the call. "We will do whatever we can. The place is open for them. Our post is open for them. Color guard is open for them. We will do whatever honor we can and any help we can give," Maslyn said. The next time folks come to the village war memorial, they'll have one more person to remember. "We are close knit, we know most of the people. That's just the way we do things, take care of each other," Sons of the American Legion Bruce Ruthven said. Lootens is being remembered as a hometown hero for his service and his sacrifice.
Fallen warrior lived his dream
Area soldier known as a patriot, died in Iraq 'doing what he loved'
Victoria E. Freile
(October 18, 2006) Army Sgt. Jonathan Lootens was known by many as a
As a mischievous child, the former Newark resident was already proud to be an American, said his family, and as he matured, his love for democracy flourished; in response to Sept. 11, 2001, he joined the military.
Those who best knew Lootens, who died in Iraq over the weekend, said they are proud of what he achieved in recent years. They are proud to know that Lootens died fulfilling his dream.
Lootens, 25, died Sunday in Kirkuk, Iraq, after the Humvee he was riding in encountered a roadside bomb. Also killed inthe explosion was 1st Lt. Joshua Deese, 25, of North Carolina, officials said.
Lootens, known as Jon by family and friends, was a part of the 25th
Infantry Division, based in Hawaii. He had been in Iraq since August on his second tour of duty. He previously had served in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004.
"My brother was a patriot and died doing what he loved," said sister Andrea Ralyea, 26, of Victor, Ontario County. "He loved his family and his country. He also loved freedom for Americans and for everyone else in the world."
Lootens was raised in Newark, Wayne County, and attended Newark High School, Ralyea said. She said after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Lootens enlisted in the Army to do his share to help, just as his father and two grandfathers had done as young men.
"I told him he was crazy," she recalled.
But Ralyea said she soon realized what the mission meant to her younger brother and how joining the military changed his life.
"I'm sure people who remember my brother know he was a troublemaker, but he grew up to be a wonderful young man," Ralyea said. "His greatest accomplishment was turning his life around."
In his spare time, Lootens spent time with his family, went fishing and hunting and worked on his classic car, a blue 1964 Ford Falcon Futura. And he was known as a jokester with a wicked sense of humor.
His father, Bob Lootens of Phelps, Ontario County, described his son as "an amazing young man who had so much courage."
"I know he didn't like it in Iraq, but he loved the Army, his country and his job," Bob Lootens said. "He did his job to the best of his ability, whether he liked it or not."
Though Lootens was trained as a chemical operations specialist, he served as a machine gunner in the lead Humvee in Iraq, a job that placed him on a perch in the open, his father said.
After his first tour of duty, Lootens received a commendation medal from the Army for saving another soldier's life while under fire, Bob Lootens said.
"That's the way he was, his soldier brothers and friends meant so much to him," Bob Lootens said. "To him, their safety was more important than his own."
Bob Lootens said his son was planning to come to Phelps next month to visit on a three-week leave that included Thanksgiving. The two talked regularly on the phone and spent much time together fishing and hunting, he said.
"He was the light of my life; he was my boy," he said. "He'll always be with me."
Jonathan Lootens was not married and did not have any children. Besides his father and sister he is survived by his mother, Deborah Qualtieri of Norwalk, Conn.
Funeral arrangements have not been determined, but Ralyea said family
members plan to honor Lootens at a service in western New York because he always considered the Rochester area his home.
(Following From Associated Press)
Sgt. Jonathan Lootens had been a troubled youth. Though he had frequently walked on the wrong side of the law, he found purpose and direction in the Army, wanted to go to college and loved reading.
First Lt. Joshua Deese, 25, was a "true Southern gentleman," wanted to make the Army a career and had a young son with his high school sweetheart in North Carolina.
The two soldiers had already survived a deployment to Afghanistan. But
neither could survive a roadside bomb explosion that ripped through their vehicle Sunday in Iraq.
"Just a difficult time; just taking it one minute at a time," Rogena Deese, Joshua's mother, said yesterday from Rowland, N.C.
The two Schofield Barracks soldiers were killed in Kirkuk in northern Iraq during combat operations, the Pentagon said yesterday. They were with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment.
Lootens, 25, from Lyons, N.Y., and Deese are the sixth and seventh
Hawai'i-based soldiers to be killed during a yearlong deployment to Iraq by more than 7,000 Schofield soldiers that began about
two months ago.
At least 58 Americans have been killed in Iraq in the first two weeks of October, a pace that if continued would make the month the worst for coalition forces since January 2005 when 107 U.S. soldiers and Marines died.
The spike in casualties has paralleled an upward spiral in ethnic violence. Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, last week said "the levels of violence over the last few weeks are as high as they have been."
Casey also said that violence and progress coexist in Iraq, and that 90 percent of the violence takes place in five provinces that account for a little less than half the country's population.
Family of both slain soldiers yesterday said the men believed in what they were doing in Iraq, a war that continues to become increasingly unpopular back home.
"Iraq was more difficult than Afghanistan for Jon personally," said Lootens' sister, Andrea Ralyea, 26. "But there were just different challenges that they were facing there. He felt that what they are doing is right -- that we have to help people around the world find freedom and find their way, and Jon was helping to do that."
Rogena Deese said that her son also was proud of what he was doing.
"He believed that there had to be sacrifices made for America's freedom," she said, adding that he was discouraged at how the media had represented the soldiers in the war.
"All of the soldiers want to be represented as trying to do something
honorable -- trying to protect the freedom of America," Rogena Deese said.
Deese was commissioned in August 2003 after graduating from Pembroke State University. He came to Schofield Barracks in August 2004. His uncle was his Junior ROTC instructor in high school.
"He just really got into it. He followed in his (uncle's) footsteps," Rogena Deese said. Her son wanted to make the Army a career. She described him as outgoing, "a true southern gentleman, real well-mannered. Just an ideal son."
He was his company's executive officer.
"He wanted to be there for his men, take care of them, make sure things were done right for them," his mother said. Joshua Deese was planning on marrying his high school sweetheart after the deployment and captain's school. The couple has a 2-year-old son.
"Josh, myself and most of my family are real strong believers in having eternal hope in Jesus ... and I know that I'll see him one day, and that's how I'm getting through this," Rogena Deese said.
Andrea Ralyea said her brother was looking for some direction in life and joined the Army after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
"I think it's important for everyone to know how much the Army changed Jon's life -- that he saw the Army as a springboard to other opportunities," she said.
He loved the outdoors -- fishing was a passion -- and was fixing up a 1964 Ford. He was looking forward to going to college.
"He thought for a while that he might want to go into law enforcement or do things to help kids," his sister said. He was reading George Orwell's "1984" and had asked the family to send him some of the "classics."
Her brother was expected to come home on rest and recuperation leave next month, and the family was adjusting their schedules to be with him.
Jon didn't tell his family where he was in Iraq, his sister said. He did say it was harder than being in Afghanistan.
"Because of what Jon was and wasn't allowed to tell us, he never really got into (why)," she said.
Two other soldiers were hurt in the roadside bomb blast in Kirkuk, which is where the headquarters is located for Schofield's 3rd Brigade Combat Team.