General: Soldier Lived 'Tragically Short But Most Honorable Life'
Specialist Jonathan Batista's body laid to rest at Our Lady of the Magnificat cemetery Monday.
U.S. Army Specialist Jonathan Batista was a brother, good friend, loving son and a defender of his country, according to those who eulogized him at his funeral service Monday.
Batista, a 22-year-old Kinnelon resident, was killed in combat July 8 in Afghanistan by enemy small arms fire. He was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, N.C., according to the Department of Defense.
The funeral Mass was held at Our Lady of the Magnificat Church, in Kinnelon and hundreds of people came to pay their respect. Residents welcomed Batista home Sunday, waving American flags along Kinnelon Road as the hearse carrying his body drove to the church before viewing hours.
Batista was eulogized by his stepfather and friend, in addition to Brigadier General Jeffrey Colt, deputy commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division.
"We all deeply regret Jonathan's loss and recognize that we owe this family a debt we will never be able to repay," Colt said on behalf of the Army.
Colt said Batista was a volunteer, "a man of character and a leader" and repeated that he was both trusted and respected among his peers. According to his obituary, he had a "charismatic personality."
"He remained steadfast in his commitment to others in combat," Colt said.
Colt read the beginning of the U.S. Army's mission statement and said Batista exemplified the values of a soldier. He spoke of courage and said it is a conscious choice and not a value every soldier automatically possesses. But Batista did, he said.
"Jonathan lived a tragically short but most honorable life," he said.
Batista's stepfather, Erik Gaston, spoke about his relationship with Batista and how when he married Batista's mother, Jeannette, he was unsure whether he would be able to love his stepson as his own. As time went on, Gaston said he did.
"I actually achieved what I thought I possibly couldn't and that is unconditional love for Jonathan," he said.
Gaston recalled teaching Batista not to be a coward, but only to do what he believed to be the right thing.
"He liked danger, he liked to be out there solving problems," he said.
Gaston joked that he also taught Batista to drive and within three hours of receiving his driver's license, he had gotten his first speeding ticket.
Gaston said Batista had a group of fine friends, many of whom attended the service, and that while the soldier did not have many material possessions, the love he had for those close to him was immense.
"He had so much love, understanding and faith around him," he said.
One of Batista's friends also spoke at the service.
"Jonathan's infectious smile and laughter helped to make times enjoyable for everyone," he said.
Gaston thanked the family's relatives and friends, and even strangers who attended the funeral, for their support.
"The last week has been absolutely overwhelming to see how a community came together," he said.
Colt also assured funeral attendees that Batista's sacrifice was made for the future of freedom in Afghanistan and the world as a whole and that the Army will continue to fight for that freedom in Batista's name.