John J. Levulis wanted to be a soldier for as long as his family could remember.
A relative – also named John Levulis – was a 22-year-old Army specialist when he was killed in 1971 in a helicopter crash in Vietnam.
Now, heartbreak has hit the family again.
The younger John Levulis, 25, died Thursday from injuries suffered in a New Jersey highway crash, when a civilian in a sports car hit his military vehicle in convoy.
Levulis, an Army first lieutenant, received his commission in 2012 after graduating from Niagara University and its ROTC program.
Last summer, Levulis returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
“You worry about them being in Afghanistan and all that can happen there, and you’re just elated he got home safely. Then – a crazy accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. It’s hard to make sense of it,” the young officer’s uncle, Jim Ranney, said Thursday.
Levulis was one of four soldiers injured Friday night when their Humvee, part of a convoy en route to Fort Dix, N.J., was hit by a Nissan 350Z and forced off the road and into a tree. Two of the injured soldiers are now OK. The driver suffered spinal injuries.
Levulis suffered severe head trauma and other injuries. He was taken off life support Thursday.
Levulis’ parents, Gary and Barbara Levulis of Eden, and his wife, Julianne Viviano, were with him at Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton. He also has a younger brother.
Levulis and Viviano were privately married before he and his brigade left for Afghanistan in 2013, Ranney said. A wedding ceremony was planned for this July with family and friends, and there had been a bridal shower planned for this weekend.
The two met at Niagara University, where Viviano, who is from Syracuse, was on the women’s soccer team.
Levulis graduated summa cum laude, with a degree in criminology and criminal justice. His uncle said he planned to go into law enforcement after he left the service.
The lieutenant was an infantry platoon leader with the 10th Mountain Division, stationed at Fort Drum. When the crash occurred, the soldiers were driving from there to Fort Dix to conduct mounted gunnery training.
“He did so well at Niagara, he could have gone into any part of the service, done anything he wanted, but he picked the infantry because he wanted to be a soldier,” Ranney said.
Levulis was a 2008 graduate of Eden High School, where he played basketball and lacrosse, and he maintained a pride in his hometown. After returning from Afghanistan last summer, he brought four members of his platoon home with him for the Eden Corn Festival, where they were recognized by members of the town’s Newell-Faulkner Post 880, American Legion.
His parents made a point of thanking the Legion, writing in its newsletter, “John is proud to say he is from this community and is grateful for the support he and his platoon have received from the Legion over the past year (when they were in Afghanistan).”
Last Friday, the convoy of 12 vehicles from Fort Drum had almost reached the end of its 350-mile-plus journey when the last Humvee, driven by Staff Sgt. Bryce Leek, 35, of LaFargeville, was hit by a car driven by Ramdel Magloire, 43, of Hackensack, N.J.
Magloire faces a charge of reckless driving, New Jersey State Police said.
Leek suffered serious spinal injuries, and he was in critical condition when taken to the Trenton hospital, according to State Police.
The two other injured passengers were Sgt. 1st Class Ainoy Rasvongsy, 34, of Watertown, and Pvt. Juan Ramirez, 21, of Livingston Manor. Ramirez was released from the hospital Saturday and Rasvongsy was in good condition, according to the Watertown Daily Times.
Funeral arrangements for Levulis were being coordinated with the military Thursday and have yet to be announced.