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Sgt. 1st Class John Morton
Sgt. 1st Class John Morton ()

VICENZA, Italy — There weren’t enough seats for the people who wanted to say goodbye.

Dozens were left standing in the base chapel during a memorial service Tuesday for Sgt. 1st Class John Morton, a soldier his friend called “a sincere, honest man.”

Morton, noncommissioned officer for communications for the 74th Long Range Surveillance Detachment, was killed Thursday in a firefight in a mountainous region in southern Afghanistan. He’s the 18th member of the Vicenza military community to die since the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) took over operations in Afghanistan in March.

Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Chance said of his friend: “As a soldier, John was a quiet professional. A role model. He never looked for glory, but was always glorious. He was a leader of men and a man of valor.”

The 31-year-old from Kentucky was also a husband and a father of three children: Joshua, 8, Scarlette, 6, and Olivia, 3 months.

Chance directed his final comments to the fallen soldier’s wife, who attended the service.

“Sarah,” he said, “no matter where in the world John and I were, he counted the moments until he could be with you again.”

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Doug Hudson said the death was “a devastating blow to us, because we love John and we love his family.”

Lt. Col. Mike Shinners, the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s rear detachment commander, said Morton’s duties didn’t require him to be out on such a patrol.

“If there were killers, bullies or terrorists in the mountains, John Morton was not the kind of man to just talk about them on the radio,” he said. Instead, he volunteered to hike into the mountains.

Shinners said others in the detachment stayed on that mountain for three days in wintry conditions before they found the person responsible for his death.

Shinners also said he didn’t want to attend another memorial service on Caserma Ederle. Most soldiers are expected to return to Italy in February or March.

“I hope this is it,” he said. “We have achieved so much, but at such a price.

“Holy mackerel. Enough is enough. Peace on Earth, Lord. Please, peace on Earth.”

Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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