Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2018, Sergeant Matthew David Tonroe, 22nd Special Air Service Regiment, and Master Sergeant Jonathan Dunbar, United States Army Special Operations Command, were killed in an IED attack in Manjib, east of Aleppo in Syria. Sergeant Tonroe was the only British soldier to be killed fighting the Islamic State jihadis.
Sergeant Tonroe had enlisted in the army in 2004, and after training joined 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, serving as part of the Sniper Platoon. He deployed many times to Afghanistan and the Middle East, distinguishing himself with his dedication, professionalism and selflessness. Well-liked and respected, he is remembered for his bravery, compassion, and humour.
His Commanding Officer said of him: “Matt Tonroe was a deeply intelligent man and one of life’s characters. He was a caring and considerate soul, a loving and dutiful son, and a friend to many. Yet he had a steel core, served his country with pride and was a first class soldier, proven in combat, faced risk willingly and was ever ready for more. He thus died as he lived: daring and fearless in duty. We mourn his loss dearly, are proud to have known him and will honour him by continuing this fight”.
Matthew, born in Manchester, was 33 years old. On his gravestone in the cemetery in Hereford are inscribed the last four lines of this poem by James Elroy Flecker (the preceding lines are included as they seem most appropriate):
Go as a pilgrim and seek out danger
far from the comfort and the well-lit avenues of life.
Pit your every soul against the unknown
and seek stimulation in the company of the brave.
Experience cold, hunger, heat and thirst
and survive to see another challenge and another dawn.
Only then will you be at peace with yourself
and be able to know and to say;
“I looked down the mountain,
fulfilled and understanding all,
and truly content that I lived a full life
and one that was my own choice”
(“Always a little further”)
Master Sergeant Dunbar enlisted in the U.S. army in 2005. He served as a machine gunner, fire team leader and squad leader with 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment. Four years later he transferred to 2nd Battalion, 38th Cavalry Regiment (Long Range Surveillance), and in 2013 he became a team member at Headquarters, U.S. Special Operations Command. During his service he deployed several times in support of combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Several colleagues spoke of him: “I can’t get into details…but I can tell you there are people that are alive today that wouldn't have been able to go home and see their children, if it wasn't for him”. "This man was a father, a friend, a brother…an amazing individual, and he did sacrifice for us". "Jon was the best. He was quiet and reserved. He knew when to talk to you and how to talk to you. And I loved him like only a little brother could love a big brother”.
Jonathan, born in Minnesota, but raised in Austin, Texas, was 36 years old and left behind his pregnant wife and three small children. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.