Jonathan Miles Lankford – Sergeant Major, United States Army

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release

September 23, 2007

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Command Sergeant Major Jonathan M. Lankford, 42, of Scottsboro, Alabama, died September 22, 2007, in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 79th Ordnance Battalion, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Courtesy of The Daily Sentinel of Scottsboro, Alabama

Published September 25, 2007

A 42-year-old career soldier from Scottsboro, serving in Iraq, died from a non-combat related illness Saturday, according to the Pentagon.

He was identified by U.S. Army authorities as Command Sgt. Major Jonathan Miles Lankford.

Lankford, a 1983 graduate of Scottsboro High School, apparently suffered a heart attack in Baghdad.

“It's sad,” former classmate and current SHS assistant principal Vic Griggs said late Monday afternoon. “Everybody liked Miles. He had a quick wit and was always very friendly.”

Authorities in the Public Affairs Office at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in the San Antonio area, said Lankford was assigned to the 79th Ordnance Battalion at Fort Sam Houston. He had a wife and three-year-old child.

Lankford was the son of Mary Jo Lankford, retired assistant principal at Scottsboro High School. Mrs. Lankford is currently living with another son, Taylor Lankford, and his family in Macon, Ga., where Taylor is a school teacher. Another son, Cam, lives in Jackson County and is employed by TVA at Widows Creek Steam Plant.

Assistant Supt. of Scottsboro Schools Dickey Holder was principal of Scottsboro High School while all three of the Lankford brothers were students. He said they knew Jonathan Miles Lankford as “Miles.”

Holder said Miles was “a good kid and an excellent student. He was very mannerly — a yes sir and no sir student — and always had a smile on his face.”

Lankford was a member of the Scottsboro football team his senior year. Larry Morris, who was the line/assistant coach then when Wayne McNutt was head football coach, described Lankford as “a hard worker and fine young man. He loved serving in the military and had done well in the Army. His death was a great loss for his family, our community and our country.”

Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time. Esther Garcia, an employee in the Public Affairs Office at Fort Sam Houston, said late Monday, that burial with full military honors would be in Arlington National Cemetery.

More information about Lankford’s service record is to be released through the proper military channels in the near future.

Scottsboro native Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Lankford dies of heart attack in Iraq

Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Courtesy of the Huntsville Times

Scottsboro native Jonathan Miles Lankford fulfilled his life's ambition when he attained the Army's highest rank as an enlisted man, his mother, Mary Jo Lankford, said.

“It was a hard struggle for him,” she said. “But he was determined to make Sergeant Major.”

But it was the stress from leading a company of soldiers in the Iraq war that Lankford believes may have led to her son's death Saturday in Baghdad.

He died from an apparent heart attack, she said, while working out with his men, something they did every morning before they went to work.

At age 42, Lankford leaves behind his wife, Cheryl, and their 2-year-old son, Jonathan “Jon” Miles Jr. They live at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where Lankford's unit, the 79th Ordnance Battalion, is based.

Lankford served as command sergeant major of the battalion – an explosive ordnance disposal support group.

Funeral arrangements had not yet been made, but Mary Jo Lankford said her daughter-in-law was trying to get him buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Although Mary Jo Lankford said she had always feared that her son would be killed in combat, she never expected that he would lose his life this way.

“He was the baby in the family,” she said. “He got along with his (two older) brothers. He was not much into foolishness. He was pretty much all business. It was part of his makeup.”

He and his unit were deployed to Iraq about a year ago and were scheduled to return home in January. “When I saw him off in October 2006 I just told him to be careful and ‘I'll see you when you come home',” Lankford said. “Now, all we have are fond memories of him. But that's what we're going to cling to.”

Alabama Soldier Was Skilled in Disposing Of Makeshift Bombs

Decorated 23-Year Veteran, Sent to Iraq, Died of Non-Combat Injuries, U.S. Says
By Mark Berman
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jonathan Miles Lankford enlisted in the Army a few weeks after his 19th birthday. He volunteered for the dangerous but important job of explosive-ordnance disposal.

The work is especially vital in Iraq because of the widespread danger presented by makeshift bombs. During his 23 years of military service, Lankford served at one point as an instructor in explosive-ordnance disposal and earned a master badge in the field.


Command Sergeant Major Lankford, 42, died September 22, 2007, in Baghdad of injuries suffered in an incident not related to combat, the Defense Department reported.

His burial was yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery in front of more than 200 mourners, after a memorial service at the chapel at adjacent Fort Myers.

The funeral party filled five dozen cars lined along York Drive and stretching around the corner onto Marshall Drive. The intersection forms a corner of Section 60 of the cemetery, where many Iraq and Afghanistan casualties are buried.

A pair of flower-filled vases and two wreaths of red and white flowers provided a backdrop for the burial service. Chaplain Gil Richardson called Lankford a “loving father, devoted husband” and a “man among men.” He recited some of the 23rd Psalm, his voice carrying above the ambient noise of planes overhead.

Lankford was born in Scottsboro, Alabama, the youngest of three brothers. His family declined to comment for this report, but his mother told the Huntsville (Ala.) Times that he had fulfilled his life's ambition when he attained the Army's highest rank for an enlisted man.

“It was a hard struggle for him,” Mary Jo Lankford told the paper. “But he was determined to make Sergeant Major.”

The cause of Lankford's death is under investigation, but his mother told the Huntsville Times that Lankford died from an apparent heart attack while exercising with his men as part of their daily morning routine.

“When I saw him off in October 2006, I just told him to be careful and ‘I'll see you when you come home,' ” she said. “Now, all we have are fond memories of him. But that's what we're going to cling to.”

Those memories include Lankford's decorated career, during which he received such awards as the Bronze Star, Legion of Merit and Meritorious Service Medal. He is survived by his wife of eight years, Cheryl, and their 2-year-old son, Jonathan Jr.

Lankford was first deployed to Iraq for five months in 1998 and was deployed for the current conflict twice, in April 2003 and again last October.

A memorial was held for Lankford last week at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where he was based with the 79th Ordnance Battalion. The week before, a service took place in Baghdad.



  • DATE OF BIRTH: 04/16/1965
  • DATE OF DEATH: 09/22/2007

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