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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 16, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 30
Alumnus Jonathan Grassbaugh, 25, Killed in Iraq

Jenna and Jonathan Grassbaugh

By Amy Lunday

Army Capt. Jonathan Grassbaugh, a member of the Homewood class of 2003, was killed April 7 while on patrol with his unit in Zaganiyah, Iraq.

President Brody, in a letter informing the Johns Hopkins community, said that the Department of Defense reported that Grassbaugh and three other soldiers died when an improvised explosive device detonated near them. A winner of the Bronze Star and a number of other decorations, Grassbaugh, 25, was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq.

Grassbaugh earned a bachelor's degree in computer science from the Whiting School of Engineering. He is survived by his wife, the former Jenna Parkinson, who concurrently earned bachelor's and master's degrees in history in 2006 from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. The couple met as ROTC cadets, when Jenna was a freshman and Jonathan a senior. They were married last June, shortly before Jonathan was deployed to Iraq.

"I don't think I have to tell you that I am beyond heartbroken and have no way to describe to you what a loss this represents not only to me but to the community and to the world," said Jenna Grassbaugh, now a first-year law student at the College of William & Mary. "He was more than I could ever ask for in a husband, and he was more than my husband--he was my best friend, my other half, and now he is my angel in heaven."

Lt. Col. (retired) Charles Roller, who was a professor of military science at Johns Hopkins until 2005, said, "In my nine years teaching ROTC--three at Duke and six at JHU--Jonathan Grassbaugh was by far one of the most energetic and conscientious young men that I had the honor to teach. He was active in all ROTC activities and was the driving force behind the JHU Ranger Challenge team winning brigade competitions two years in a row and the battalion being rated third in the nation among 270 ROTC units. He was honest and cared a great deal about the cadets placed in his charge.

"Jon was selected as the Cadet Battalion Commander in his senior year and continued to impress the cadre with his energy and desire to improve the JHU ROTC program," Roller said. "Coming from a military family, Jon's desire to serve his nation was instilled in him from an early age. He was an impressive cadet and student at JHU and was an officer who was greatly respected by his soldiers and peers. Jon will be missed but not forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jon's wife and family in this time of sorrow."

Yair Amir, a professor of computer science and Jonathan Grassbaugh's academic adviser, recalls that Grassbaugh's experiences with the Blue Jay Battalion had matured him, but that he was also youthful and energetic. Friends say that Grassbaugh came into his own here at Hopkins, where he went from shy and reserved to holding leadership roles within the Blue Jay Battalion, and that he was especially committed to its challenging Pershing Rifles military honor society. Amir also noted that Grassbaugh was dedicated to his life in the military.

"He was excited about it, and I was excited about it for him, but there is always that uncertainty," Amir said. "I didn't think something was going to happen, but I knew that something could."

Preparations are under way for a memorial service on the Homewood campus. Those wishing to express their condolences to the family should send them to Jonathan's parents, Mark and Patricia Grassbaugh, 50 Partridge Lane, East Hampstead, NH 03826.

"This sudden loss brings home to each of us not only the tragedy of war but also the courage, integrity and commitment of the men and women who wear the uniform and represent us all," Brody said. "The death of a well-loved member of our Johns Hopkins community diminishes us all, but it is Jonathan's life we should honor and remember. It is his life from which we should all take inspiration."


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