A soldier who spent his early childhood in International Falls was killed by a bomb in Syria on Friday.
Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar, 36, died as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his patrol in Manbij, Syria, where he was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. He was assigned to the headquarters of U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
Dunbar deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded three Bronze Star Medals during his 12 years with the U.S. Army, according to USASOC.
Jonathan loved the Army, said his uncle Bob Dunbar of Ranier, adding, "I think he liked the challenge in his life." His uncle Jerry Dunbar of St. George, Utah, said Jonathan "really was a dedicated warrior. He loved what he did. He was a top-echelon soldier. He believed in it. He was a great young man, a great nephew."
Jerry said Jonathan was "very positive about everything" when Jerry saw him in January.
"At the end, you didn't know where he was going. He got a call and he left. We never really knew where he was; we just knew he was out there somewhere, watching over us," Jerry said.
His deployments would "leave a big hole," but Jerry said he got to the point where he stopped worrying about whether Jonathan would return because it became routine.
"He would be gone four months and then reappear and he would be perfectly normal when he got back and this time, he didn't return," Jerry said.
Bob said he hopes Jonathan will be remembered for his loyalty and his love for his wife, son and two daughters.
Jonathan was quiet, eager, hard-working and a good listener who enjoyed hunting and fishing, Bob said. He also loved hockey and would play when he was in North Carolina, Jerry said.
"He was born in Minnesota so he had northern hockey in his blood. ... When he got home, that's what he would look forward to, is playing hockey," Jerry said.
Jerry said Jonathan was like a son to him. Jonathan was fun to be around and while Jerry has a lot of good memories of his nephew, their hike together in the Grand Canyon three years ago is a favorite. Neither of them had hiked there before and it was beautiful, Jerry said. Jonathan also came to Jerry's rescue when he lost his shoe sole at the bottom of the canyon.
"He pulls out his parachute cord and he starts wrapping up my foot in parachute cord and duct tape and away we go. He was just a humble young man. He's quiet, but yet he was a very strong individual. His personality was super strong. Anybody who ever met him just said he was a wonderful guy," Jerry said.
Jonathan was born in International Falls in 1981 and graduated from high school in Austin, Texas, in 1999. He lived in International Falls until he was 5 years old, when his father Ted Dunbar lost his job in the Boise Insulite closure and they relocated to Texas, but he would continue to visit the Falls, Bob said.
Jonathan enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 2005 and completed his basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia, according to USASOC. He served with the Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg and deployed once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. In 2009, he moved to Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 38th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood in Texas, and deployed once to Iraq. Starting in 2013, he served as a team member with USASOC and deployed three times to Iraq and Afghanistan.