By Mr. Kevin Stabinsky (IMCOM)June 5, 2009
Even as a child, Jonathan Ayers displayed characteristics that made his father Bill realize the military was probably in Jon\'s future. At the age of three, Jon had approached his father, looked down at Bill's shoes, and told him that they were dirty and needed to be cleaned.
"That was Jon. He loved the spit and polish," Bill said.
It was that love of the military, its culture, and more profoundly, the love of his fellow man, which would allow Jonathan to accomplish more in his short tenure in the Army than many others. And now, as of May 20, those personality traits will continue to live on and affect all recruits entering the military service at the Atlanta Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) on Fort Gillem.
On May 20, the swearing in room, where recruits take the oath of enlistment, was dedicated as the Cpl. Jonathan Ayers U.S. Army Ceremony Room.
Ayers, who processed through the station in April 2006, was killed while deployed with 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne) 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). The dedication of the room in his name was designed to dedicate and remember his service, honor his legacy, as well as those yet to be created by men and women and women who take the oath and allow us to be free, said Maj. Adrian Hughley, commander, Atlanta MEPS.
The dedication of the room wasn't just done because Jonathan processed through the station. His character, described by Hughley, was also a justification.
"Jonathan was the commander of his high school JROTC (junior reserve officer training corps), voted most outstanding commander and played soccer as a defender," Hughley said. "On July 13, 2008, he showed he was a great defender."
On that day, in what would turn out to be one of the worst dates in terms of casualties suffered in during the War on Terror, nine Soldiers, including Ayers, were killed and 15 wounded during an insurgent assault on Combat Outpost Kahler, located Wanat, Afghanistan, near Pakistan border.
Unlike many typical ambushes conducted by insurgents, in which small teams of men perform hit and run tactics, on that day approximately 200 Taliban fighters attacked the base with small arms, mortars and rocket propelled grenades.
According to the MilitaryCity.com article, Hard-hit C Company suffers another agonizing blow, by staff writer Michelle Tan, the insurgents outnumbered Coalition Forces by at least 2 to 1. Yet despite the numerical superiority, the base was held and the insurgents driven off, a result in which Ayers played a vital role.
"The men who with him say he truly saved their lives," Hughly said.
Witnesses of the day describe Ayers action like that of a Hollywood movie. Despite heavy fire on his position, Ayers stood his ground, laying down continuous fire with his M-240 Bravo heavy machine gun, keeping the enemy away from the position. Even after being knocked down by a bullet grazing his head, Ayers got back up and continued to lay down fire, stopping only when he was finally killed by enemy fire.
For his actions, Ayers was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the third highest military award for valor.
"He was very caring, didn't want to see people hurt," said Jonathan's mother Suzane. "He was a good kid. He'd do anything you asked him to do."
And that included paying the ultimate price, a sacrifice which hollows the ground dedicated in his honor, said Col. Barrye Price, commander, eastern sector, U.S. military entrance processing command.
Noting that a nation who forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten, Price said the dedication was about the renewal of Jonathan, capturing his history. But it was also about the future as well, the creating of a legacy projected forward in time.
Part of that legacy will be created by those who take the oath to continue to serve, something three recruits did immediately following the dedication ceremony.
By having recruits enlist in a room bearing his son's name, Bill said he hopes those enlisting gain a deeper appreciation for what they are doing and the sacrifices they are making.
After thanking the new recruits for their service, Price also thanked the Ayers family for allowing the station to honor their son, an honor the family was proud to receive.
"It's a great honor," Suzane said of the dedication. "The Army's been wonderful. The Army said they'd always be there for us."
And now, with the dedication capturing part of Jonathan's spirit, he will always be with the Army he loved, a contribution truly fitting for Jonathan, whose name means gift.