East Aurora grad is minister’s son and military man
By Linda Girardi For The Beacon-News January 24, 2013 12:50PM
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jonathan Thompson, a Montgomery native and graduate of East Aurora High School, passes out certificates to an Afghan Army soldier who just completed the Explosive Hazard Reduction course.Thompson recently returned home from Afghanistan, his fourth tour of duty. | Submitted photo
Updated: February 26, 2013 6:11AM
While on leave from his fourth tour of duty in the Middle East, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jonathan Thompson said he is fulfilling a lifelong dream.
“From the fifth grade I always wanted to go into the Army,” said Thompson, who will have dedicated 28 years in the military when his tour in Afghanistan ends in May.
Thompson said he plans to retire from the military in June.
“I learned from my parents that a lot in life is what you make out of it and part of that is overcoming adversity, such as the loss of my father,” he said.
The military man, perhaps surprisingly, is the son of two ministers — the late Rev. David Thompson and Rev. Clara Thompson of Montgomery.
Last weekend, family members celebrated Thompson’s return home and his 50th birthday at a gathering in a private dining room at the Fireside Grille in Sugar Grove.
The 1981 East Aurora High School alum attended Wheaton College on a four-year Army ROTC scholarship. After his sophomore year in college, he studied at the U.S. Army Airborne Parachutist School in Fort Benning, Ga.
Thompson served 11 years on active duty around the world. Then in 2003, he was mobilized as an Army Reserve officer to his first tour in Baghdad, Iraq. From 2005 through 2009 he completed two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He has been serving in Afghanistan on his fourth tour of duty since July of 2012, assigned to “countering improvised explosive devices” to save the lives of soldiers and civilians.
“Our U.S. soldiers really became our heroes… They go out and do their job without knowing what will happen,” he said.
Thompson, who grew up in Montgomery, said his mother has always “lived her life completely” and has been supportive of his military career. His late father served in the Army after World War II, and became pastor of Park Place Church in Montgomery. He died suddenly in 1977.
Clara Thompson, 82, said it became apparent when her son was growing up that one day he would become a soldier.
She recalled watching her son as a child playing outdoors with his younger brothers Ted, William and Wesley. The four would dress in camouflage Army soldier uniforms and scramble for cover in the neighbor’s bushes while on walkie-talkie radios.
“He has always been an adventurer,” Clara Thompson said.
“It doesn’t pay to worry,” the mother added.
Clara Thompson said she returned to the seminary after her husband’s death and became a hospice chaplain for the Aurora Visiting Nurse Association. She retired and now works as a volunteer chaplain.
“I told all my children to follow their dreams,” she said.
She said her daughter, Sharon Olson, of Rockford, is currently in seminary and will be “the minister of the family.”
Thompson remarried into a family of ministers when he wed Jacqueline Thompson, an international flight attendant for American Airlines. His mother-in-law, Jeanne Christian, is an associate minister at the Bethesda Worship Center in Des Plaines.
“Military service has been his calling,” Jacqueline Thompson said. “He sees his job as doing something good for the world — it is a mission for him.”