By JOYCE LUPIANI
SUWANEE, Georgia (WGCL) — A metro Atlanta community is mourning the death of a 19-year-old Marine. Master Sgt. Jeremy Reneau fought back tears Friday while talking about the loss of one of his former ROTC students, Jonathan Gierke.
“It’s devastating, it’s 100% devastating,” Reneau said. “It’s tough to deal with. I dealt with it a lot while on active duty. And then coming into this program to teach kids I never anticipated I’d have to deal with anything like this.”
The 19-year-old from Lawrenceville was one of two Marines killed Wednesday when the tactical vehicle they were riding in rolled over near the intersection of Highway 17 and Highway 210 in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
“We talked to our juniors and seniors and notified them because they were the group that were so close to him. They were freshman when he was a senior here at Collins Hill. Regardless of how it happened it was in the line of duty, he was still serving his country and he was still doing what he signed up to do,” Reneau said.
Reneau described Jonathan Gierke as a leader who racked up hundreds of hours of community service and inspired everyone around him.
“He was a four-time national award winner, community service national award, American Legion national award for excellence, Tuskegee Airman award for national recognitions so he wasn’t a kid who was just coming into the program to hang out. He was extremely involved and loved the program,” Reneau said.
CBS46 met with Jonathan’s family at their Gwinnett County home. They said he would always light up a room with his smile and loved what he did.
“He met me at the door when I walked through the ROTC door with a cup of coffee. And he said Sgt. Reneau I’m Chief Master Sgt. Gierke and I heard you like coffee and I said I’m going to love this kid,” Reneau said.
Jonathan was in the top 2-3% in terms of physical fitness and was a part of the ROTC rifle program at the school. ROTC members intend to pull the rifle he often used from their inventory to create a memorial for him.
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