Updated: January 17, 2012 6:35AM
Jonathan Metzger had a smile “that could melt your heart,” his mother said Monday.
He had reason to show it often. The Chicago Heights native and graduate of Rich South High School was a decorated veteran, an accomplished weightlifter, an outdoors enthusiast and a friend to many.
“Everyone who met Jon liked him,” his mother, Jackie Metzger, of St. Anne, Ill., said. “He loved children, his country and his family.”
The staff sergeant was among four members of the Indiana Army National Guard who were killed Jan. 6 in Afghanistan when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb as they were working to clear a supply route of the improvised bombs.
Mr. Metzger, 32, who lived in Indianapolis, played football during his freshman year at Rich South but was injured and dedicated himself to weightlifting, Jackie Metzger said.
At 16, he took first place in the World Chicago Bench Press Championship in 1996 and holds a world record for 16- to 17-year-olds for bench-pressing 336 1/2 pounds, according to www.drugfreepowerlifting.com.
It was during high school when Mr. Metzger decided he wanted to join the Marines, enlisting after graduating from Rich South in 1998, his mom said.
After leaving the Marine Corps in 2005, Mr. Metzger joined the Indiana Army National Guard in 2006. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008 and volunteered in November to be deployed in Afghanistan with the 713th Sapper Engineering Company.
Indiana Adjutant General Martin Umbarger said Mr. Metzger and the other three members of the unit who were killed were combat engineers who specialized in clearing major supply routes. The others who died were Spc. Brian J. Leonhardt, 21, of Merrillville, Ind.; Spc. Robert Tauteris Jr., 44, of Hamlet, Ind.; and Spc. Christopher A. Patterson, 20, of Aurora.
“They’re the first ones to go out to make sure the route can be used, so it’s a very important mission — but it’s also extremely dangerous,” Umbarger said. “We will honor their sacrifice and always remember them.”
Visitation is from 4 to 8 p.m. (EST) Wednesday and Thursday at G. H. Herrmann Greenwood Funeral Home, 1605 S. State Road 135 in Greenwood.
The funeral will be at 1 p.m. Friday at Indian Creek Christian Church, 6430 Franklin Road, Indianapolis. Mr. Metzger’s uncle, the Rev. William Metzger, of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Cary, Ill., will officiate.
Interment will be at The Field of Heroes at The Gardens at Olive Branch Cemetery, State Road 135 and Olive Branch Road, in Greenwood.
Besides his mother, Mr. Metzger is survived by his wife, Erica; his father, Jim; a brother, Jeremy Metzger, of Bradley; and a sister, Julie Breazeale, of Cherry Point, N.C.
Online condolences can be shared at www.ghherrmann.com
I actually met Jon at the Bench Press competition mentioned in the article. We had alot in common, since we were both from the South Side. And we were both Jon's, without the H. He was a great kid back then, and obviously grew up to be quite an outstanding young man. You will be missed Jonathan Metzger, and thank you so much for defending my Liberty. I will forever be grateful.......