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Jonathan Grassbaugh


Jonathan Grassbaugh’s father, Mark Grassbaugh, described his son as having a laser focus that helped him accomplish many things. Once he knew what he wanted to do, he was extremely focused, the elder Grassbaugh recalled. And when he was focused there was no stopping him.

“He was physically and mentally tough,” said Rimas Radzius, 26, who graduated from Johns Hopkins in 2004 and was in the ROTC with Grassbaugh. “He could always outthink anybody,” he added. “He was one of the ones who made me decide to go into the Army. He’s a big reason why I joined, to be around guys like him.”

Professionally, he was the smartest and most competent guy that I’ve had a chance to work with in 15 years in the Army, Maj. Townley Hedrick said. Grassbaugh was kind of the center of gravity. During one particularly cold and muddy night in January, somewhere near Balad, Iraq, Army Capt. Jonathan Grassbaugh approached his commanding officer, to let him know he needed to use his unit’s two helicopters for a quick errand. “I’m going to get pizza,” Grassbaugh told Major Townley Hedrick. Grassbaugh was not ordinarily in charge of delivering pizzas, but that night he determined the unit- in the middle of a major operation- needed a morale boost. So, he flew to the nearby major Balad operating base, where a small Pizza Hut outlet was located, picked up 60 pies and personally delivered them to the 430 men in his unit. “That single act raised the entire Squadron’s moral and made up for us missing Thanksgiving and Christmas,” wrote Ray Edgar, a squadron command sergeant major.

Grassbaugh was enthusiastic about everything he did, from working at his high school radio station, WPEA, to re-enacting Civil War battles. His brother Jason remembered a night Jonathan invited the family to an observatory to see a full moon and the rings around Jupiter. It was typical of Jon to notice the beautiful things around him and then share them, his brother said.

He was the kind of husband who mailed his Valentine’s Day card especially early, arriving in his wife’s mailbox more than a week ahead of time, even though it came from Iraq. “It was one of the nicest things he ever sent me,” said Jenna Grassbaugh, who has deferred her active duty service until after completing law school. “He was talking about how he couldn’t wait to come home and to be with me, and that we were going to have a family and grow old together with our family. … We really wanted just to love each other forever.”

Grassbaugh was raised in East Hampstead, New Hampshire, and graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy He graduated from Johns Hopkins in 2003. Grassbaugh had joined the ROTC, eventually becoming a cadet battalion commander as a senior. At Hopkins, he was also a member of the Pershing Rifles, a military fraternity. The military was in his blood. His father was in the Army, and his brother is a surgeon at Fort Lewis, WA.

There was no one else to call to get the job done as well as Grassbaugh could do it, Hedrick said, and when it came for a little morale boosting, it was Grassbaugh who came up with the best ideas .”He was just in tune with what all the guys needed,” Hedrick said. “He had the perfect mix of a sense of urgency and a sense of humor, which is so important to have in the Army.”

At the conclusion of Grassbaugh’s life celebration students handed soap filled containers to the crowd that blew tiny bubbles into the air, bells tolled from a building nearby and 13 doves were released.


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