Jonathan Tessar – Sergeant First Class, United States Army

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

No. 1129-05
November 1, 2005
Media Contact: Army Public Affairs – (703) 692-2000 Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of four soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.  They died in Al Mahmudiyah, Iraq, on October 31, 2005, when an improvised explosive device detonated near their HMMWV during patrol operations.  The Soldiers were assigned to the Army's 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Killed were:

Sergeant First Class Jonathan Tessar, 36, of Simi Valley, California
Specialist William J. Byler, 23, of Ballinger, Texas
Private First Class David J. Martin, 21, of Edmond, Oklahoma
Private Adam R. Johnson, 22, of Clayton, Ohio

For further information related to this release, contact Army Public Affairs at (703) 692-2000.

With 250 soldiers under his command, Army Sergeant First Class Jonathan Tessar didn't have to ride in the lead vehicle of a convoy south of Baghdad one day last month.

Realizing that the first vehicle in the patrol also could be the one to trigger a hidden roadside bomb, he could have chosen a spot farther back.

But that wasn't his style, according to those who knew the seasoned combat veteran.

Returning to Simi Valley for his father's funeral last June, Tessar told his family about his plans to return to combat yet again.

“I said, ‘Why go back?' ” his brother Bill recalled. “But he went full throttle at just about everything he did. He loved the Army, and he loved this country.”

Abundantly tattooed, Tessar enjoyed an occasional chew of tobacco and was a big fan of NASCAR racing. He also followed the news avidly. “He loved politics,” his brother said. “He could out-argue anyone.”

Tessar planned to retire from the Army in nine months.

“He was really going to start living life,” his brother said. “He had missed so many of his kids' birthdays, missed so many holidays so the rest of us wouldn't have to.”

At the tender age of 5, Jonathan Tessar dreamed of becoming a soldier.

So much so, the Simi Valley High School football player and track runner took the General Education Development exam, and with diploma in hand enlisted in the Army before he was 18.

For the past 18 years, the 36-year-old Simi Valley native fulfilled his dream, eventually climbing to the rank of sergeant first class assigned to the Army's 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

The dream his life had become ended Monday when he and three soldiers from Fort Campbell were killed after an explosive device detonated near their vehicle while in Al Mahmudiyah, just south of Baghdad, Iraq.

“His family was more important to him than anything, but his love and loyalty to the Army and to his soldiers was unwavering,” said Tessar's wife, Nancy, in a prepared statement released by military officials Tuesday in Fort Campbell.

Tessar was a Green Beret, an Airborne Ranger with a sniper's license and a platoon leader who oversaw 250 soldiers. The NASCAR fan's chest jangled with ribbons, badges and medallions when he wore his dress uniform.

“He looked more decorated than generals,” his older brother, Bill Tessar, 38, of Simi Valley, said Tuesday night. “He was always signing up and going around the world protecting his country.”

The brothers last saw each other in May when Tessar returned home for their father's funeral.

“The Army life is not an easy way of life,” his brother said. “It is an amazing, selfless act to be a soldier, in my mind.”

Tessar was fighting in the Persian Gulf when his first child, Jonathan Jr., was born in Simi Valley. His brother served as his wife's coach in Tessar's absence.

While he traveled the world, the ties that bound him to his hometown never weakened and he kept in touch with old friends and relatives, his brother said.

“We got into a lot of trouble as kids, and all the neighborhood knew us,” he said.

From the backyard of their home abutting Highway 118, the boys would toss water balloons at passing cars.

“I was more the rotten of the two, and he got the blame,” his brother said. “My brother was a good kid. Everyone loved John.”

When he learned that his younger brother was killed, Bill Tessar said, he pulled his truck to the side of the freeway and collapsed in grief. He has not been able to bring himself to make all the calls notifying friends.

Hours before he died, Tessar responded to an e-mail his brother had sent at the behest of his own children, who wanted to know how their uncle was doing.

He was doing fine, Tessar wrote. The nights were spent worrying because the action was heavy, but he and his guys were helping the good people and getting rid of the bad.

He didn't need anything for himself but asked his brother to help his wife with care packages for his guys.

Tessar is the 11th member of the military from Ventura County killed during a tour of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the fifth from Simi Valley.

 “Our thoughts and support go out to the men and women who continue to serve and their families back home,” Nancy Tessar said in the prepared statement. “We pray for all of our soldiers' safe return.”

Tessar entered the service in 1987 and was assigned to Fort Campbell in July 2004. He is survived by his wife and three children. He had nine months left in the service before he was set to retire, his brother said.

“He certainly did not want to die for his country, but he was very much willing to,” Bill Tessar said. “He was as much an American as anybody. He was fighting for us to not have to worry about bombs going off on the side (of our roads).”

Memorial services for Tessar and the other soldiers will be held in Iraq. Fort Campbell also will recognize the fallen soldiers during a ceremony November 9, 2005. Plans for a local service are pending.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 04/04/1969
  • DATE OF DEATH: 10/31/2005


Read our general and most popular articles

Leave a Comment