Share this article

print logo

Fredonia native killed in Afghanistan

A Fredonia native was killed by a suicide bomber this week while on patrol in Afghanistan.

Army Sgt. Jonathan Gollnitz, 28, was identified as the fallen soldier by his family Thursday.

The Gollnitz family was notified about the death of their eldest son Wednesday afternoon and still only had bits and pieces about what exactly happened.

"He was on patrol with another serviceman, and a suicide bomber killed them," his aunt, Kimberly Gollnitz, told The Buffalo News on Thursday.

Gollnitz's father, Allen, and mother, also named Kimberly, left Thursday morning for Dover Air Force Base to receive their son's body.

Gollnitz's ex-wife and 4-year-old son, Lucas, also were headed to Dover.

Funeral arrangements are still incomplete.

"We'll know more once they get back," said his Aunt Kimberly, who lives next door to Gollnitz's parents in Fredonia.

Gollnitz was the oldest of six boys in the family, which includes brothers Kirk, a Marine veteran; Chad, 24; Tyler, 18; Nick, 14; and Noah, 12.

Gollnitz attended the Fredonia Central School District through the 11th grade before transferring to Levant Christian School in Falconer, where he graduated in 2003.

Soon after, he joined the military.

He first joined the Navy, where he served for five years while staand later, out of Tacoma, Wash., his aunt said.

Gollnitz then enlisted in the Army and most recently was stationed in Germany.

"He switched right over," his aunt said. "He wanted to be closer to the front lines instead of being on a ship."

The Army Times in November listed Gollnitz among the soldiers promoted to the rank of sergeant.

He has been in Afghanistan for several months, his aunt said, and already had at least one brush with death.

In July, Gollnitz injured his leg after jumping out of a Humvee that was under attack, his aunt said. Gollnitz was sent back to Germany to recuperate, before returning to Afghanistan, she said.

He last visited Fredonia more than a year ago but talked to his father by phone about two weeks ago, she added.

"He loved his family," his aunt said. "When he called, he just wanted to know how everyone was doing."

Word that a native son was killed overseas spread quickly through this small Chautauqua County community.

The Fredonia Central School District heard on Wednesday, when family members came to the school to break the tragic news to the two youngest Gollnitz brothers, said Todd Crandall, the high school principal.

Gollnitz was a character student, who was a positive influence in the school and a pleasure to have in class, according to teachers, Crandall said.

Schools in the district held a moment of silence for Gollnitz Thursday morning.
"It's a shock to everyone," Crandall said. "Everyone is quite somber when something like this hits close to home."