Sunday, July 14, 2013


Nearly two years ago we were left with the image of Hawkeye, the black Labrador friend of Petty Officer Jon Tumilson laying on the floor near the coffin of his owner.  It was a picture worth more than money and fame could ever provide.  It was the "ultimate gift" one friend gives another, regardless if one of those happens to be a dog.

This past weekend the small northeast Iowa town of Rockford paid additional accolades to the fallen hero and his buddy.  The following is from Laura Bird of the Mason City Globe Gazette.

"U.S. Navy Seal and Rockford, Iowa native Petty Officer Jon Tumilson and his dog, Hawkeye, will be able to forever run through the prairies of the Rockford Fossil and Prairie Park.  A bronze statue of Tumilson -one of 30 American troops killed in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011, when their helicopter was shot down en route to a combat mission-and Hawkeye were unveiled and dedicated Friday night at the park.

"Thank you to the board for allowing us such a beautiful place for Jon and Hawkeye to run forever", said Tumilson's brother-in-law Scott McMeekan.  The statue was made by Jeff Adams of In Bronze in Mt. Morris, Illinois.  It depicts Tumilson and Hawkeye running, which the two loved to do.

Kathy Tumilson (left) mother of Jon hugs a family member at dedication
I can't tell you what an honor it was to be entrusted with the image of Jon", said Adams.  He said he spent six to eight months trying to "breath life" into a man he never knew.  The Tumilson family sent photos and measurements such as shoe size and Adams read Navy SEAL books, but it was the stories of Tumilson that inspired him.

"Here on this extraordinary hilltop we dedicate this statue to the memory and intensity Jon brought to life", Adams said.

U.S. Navy Lt. Robert Bradshaw spoke about Tumilson's character, too.  He was chaplain for Tumilson's SEAL team.  "Jon was a gift to us", he said.  He was fully secure in who he was.  JT was a man of faith, a warrior".  All of the speakers, including Iowa State Rep. Josh Byrnes, encouraged the more than 200 people in attendance to never forget the people who serve the United States.  "Everyday is Memorial Day and everyday is Veterans Day", said Byrnes.  "It shouldn't be just one day we honor these people".

People were also encouraged to crush their excuses like Bradshaw explained to the families of the 30 SEAL members after their deaths.  "I will never forget what he said", McMeekan said.  "These are the type of men who crushed their excuses".

That quote inspired the GO Crush It 5K Challenge and Operation Go Crush It Collection Drive for military families, which were both part of the events on Saturday.  There was also a meal and benefit concert held later on in the day.  All proceeds from the event will benefit 3 Minutes Out, the foundation the family set up after Jon's death.  For more information on the charity go to

And I should add....yes, Hawkeye made it back for the festivities.....

Family and Friends around the tree of HOPE
This past Wednesday evening I had the distinction of traveling with two of the co-founders of Project 52, Dustin Blythe and Bill Clark, to Rockford.  As part of the ministry of Project 52, they plant trees with the following commitment...."plantings seeds of Hope one tree at a time".

There must have been 30 friends and family members who were invited to the tree planting. was an evening to remember.  The Tumilson family was terrific......after the ceremony Kathy ushered the three of us into their home to show us the memorial room Navy Seal members had erected in honor of Jon.  It was moving....and it was special.  And as we shared traveling home that AMAZING day.



No comments:

Post a Comment