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Army Spc. Jonathan D. Menke

Died August 4, 2008 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

22, of Madison, Ind.; assigned to the 38th Military Police Company, 38th Infantry Division, Indiana Army National Guard, Danville, Ind.; died Aug. 4 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when debris from an improvised explosive device that was detonated on an overpass fell onto his vehicle. Also killed was Sgt. Gary M. Henry.

3 Hoosier guardsmen die, 1 hurt in Iraq

By Will Higgins

Indianapolis Star

Three Indiana National Guard soldiers were killed and a fourth was seriously injured in Iraq in the past week, making this the bloodiest stretch for Hoosiers in three years.

On Saturday, Sgt. Brian K. Miller, 37, Pendleton, died from injuries in a vehicle rollover during combat operations in Abd Allah, a town south of Baghdad. He was a member of the Guard’s 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which deployed to Iraq in March.

On Monday, two Hoosier guardsmen died when a roadside bomb detonated under the Humvee they were riding in near Baghdad. The dead, Sgt. Gary Henry, 34, Indianapolis, and Spc. Jonathan Menke, 22, Madison, were members of the Danville-based 38th Military Police Company, which arrived in Iraq in May to train Iraqi police officers.

Spc. John Blickenstaff, 25, Twelve Mile, also a member of the 38th, was riding in the vehicle and was seriously injured.

All four soldiers were serving their first tours in Iraq. Miller was scheduled to return home late this year. The others were scheduled to return home early next year.

Since post-9/11 fighting began, only once have Indiana soldiers suffered more casualties over such a short period. In March 2005, four Indiana Guard soldiers patrolling in Afghanistan were killed when a roadside bomb obliterated their vehicle.

Miller — a member of the 76th’s Company D, 1st Battalion, 293rd Infantry Regiment, headquartered in Huntington — was a 19-year veteran of the Guard, according to Staff Sgt. Jeff Lowry, a Guard spokesman. Most recently, Miller was a mechanic and metal worker.

Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Wilkey, who served with Miller for 18 months in a Seymour-based maintenance company, described him as a go-getter who always was willing to help out a fellow soldier.

“He always looked out for the younger soldiers — that is very unique anymore,” Wilkey said. “He was never afraid to take on a task. People looked up to him.”

Miller was the second member of the 76th to die in Iraq. His vehicle, a wrecker, swerved to avoid an object in the road and rolled, Lowry said. The other member of the 76th to die, Sgt. Joseph A. Ford, was killed in a similar accident in May when his armored security vehicle rolled.

Henry, a 12-year veteran of the Indianapolis Fire Department, joined the Guard in 1991 while still in high school. He had retired from the Guard about 12 years ago but joined again last fall.

“Gary said that since 9/11, he had this drive in him,” said his sister Jenny Clark.

He leaves a wife and three children, ages 8 to 14.

Menke joined the Guard in 2004.

He graduated in 2005 from Madison Consolidated High School, where teachers said he joined the Guard in his junior year. They praised his athletic and musical theater ability and called him a leader who attracted other students to the school stage.

“He was what everyone would think of as the perfect high school jock,” said teacher Aaron Kelsey. “But then I think he injured his hand one year in football, so then he decided to try out theater. … He really made it cool.”

The injured Blickenstaff joined the Guard in 2004. His wife, Misty, 23, who is expecting their third child, said she has talked to him on the phone. “I was worried and scared, but it helped hearing his voice.”

Toy drive honors slain Indiana soldier’s wish

The Associated Press

MADISON, Ind. — Friends of an Indiana soldier killed in Iraq this month are helping fulfill his wish of bringing toys to impoverished children in Iraq.

While serving in Iraq, 22-year-old Spc. Jonathan Menke asked his family send him Beanie Babies and Matchbox cars so he could hand them out to Iraqi children as gifts.

The Indiana National Guard soldier from Madison died Aug. 4 in a roadside bombing near Baghdad.

Over the weekend volunteers collected toys at the front gates of the Ribberfest festival in downtown Madison to send to Iraq.

Barbara Walburn, who works with Menke’s sister, came up with the idea of collecting the toys. She says she was impressed by his wishes and wants to continue that in his memory.

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