ROCKFORD -- An Iowa-born Navy SEAL who was killed when a U.S. military helicopter was shot down this month in Afghanistan was remembered by more than 1,000 people Friday, with friends remembering an "outstanding man" who wasn't afraid of the ultimate sacrifice.
The funeral for Petty Officer John Tumilson, 35, was held in his hometown of Rockford at the Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock Community School. During the service, U.S. Navy Lt. Robert Bradshaw told Tumilson's parents "you helped raise a young man you should be proud of. ... You raised an outstanding man a hero."
Tumilson was among the 30 Americans and eight Afghans who died Aug. 6 when a rocket-propelled grenade downed their Chinook helicopter. It was one of the deadliest attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Family, friends and military personnel, along with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, packed the school's gymnasium to honor Tumilson, whom friends called J.T.
"J.T. was going to be a Navy SEAL come hell or high water," said friend Scott Nichols. "He wasn't afraid of dying."
"If J.T. had known he was going to be shot down when going to the aid of others, he would have went anyway," added Boe Nankivel, a friend and fellow soldier.
Tumilson's sister, Kristie Pohlman, said her brother always dreamed big and those dreams included joining the military's elite special forces unit. He joined the Navy in 1995.
"Your dreams were big and seemed impossible to nearly everyone on the outside," she said to her late brother. "I always knew you'd somehow do what you wanted ... I hope to pass that along to my children."Family members followed Tumilson's Labrador retriever, Hawkeye, into the service. Along with his sister, Tumilson is survived by his parents, George and Kathleen Tumilson of Rockford, and sister Joy McMeekan.