Jonathan D Welch

YORBA LINDA, CA, US

U.S. Army

SPC, COMPANY C, 1ST BATTALION, 17TH INFANTRY, 5 SBCT, FORT LEWIS, WA

08/31/2009, SHUYENE-SUFIA, AFGHANISTAN


Jon Welch’s sixth-grade teacher had a bit of a problem with him. The energetic youngster would sit in his chair and whirl around. “She said, ‘He’s spinning circles in my classroom,’ ” his mother, Gina Storll, recalled, laughing. “He was a fun kid to be around, but he had trouble focusing on the mundane things.”

So he turned the world into his own landscape of wild exploits. Whether the prankster, the punk scenester or the guy crazy — and half asleep — enough to punch a bear in the face through a camping tent (the bear ran away), Welch rarely sat on the sidelines. And he had no intention of doing that when he joined the Army, he told his family.

“That’s why he volunteered for infantry,” his mother said. “He wanted to be on the front lines.”

That’s where Army Specialist Jonathan D. Welch was Aug. 31 when a roadside bomb exploded near his unit in Shuyene Sufia in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, on the Pakistani border.

Welch, 19, who was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Ft. Lewis, Wash., was one of two soldiers killed in the attack. His unit had been deployed barely two months.

“He talked to us about how he might not make it through this,” Storll said. “We’ve been a pretty strong Christian family. He said, ‘I want you guys to know I squared things away with God.’ “It took most of Welch’s short life for him to become so centered.

He dropped out of Esperanza High in Anaheim during his sophomore year, according to family members. At 16, he ran away for two weeks only to be found squatting and drinking on top of a building, his siblings recalled.

After that, his parents put him in a rehab program in Mexico, his mother said. Six months later, he emerged from his rehab program, his family said, and went on to earn a general equivalency diploma and joined the Army in 2007.

Welch dreamed of being part of an Army airborne unit, according to friends and family. He also seemed to have new focus. On his last two trips home — his final one over the Fourth of July holiday — his mother marveled at how he had transformed himself over the years from “a squirrelly kid” to a confident person. “He figured himself out,” she said.

“The Army really helped him grow up,” said his stepfather Ben Storll, a Verizon Wireless business account specialist. “My boy changed into a man. It was a pretty awesome thing to see.”

Jonathan’s portrait is also on Poster 8