RIP, SFC Jonn Lilyea (Pinned as first post)

| July 27, 2018

Well, we all end the Land Nav course of life someday, and for Jonn, that day was yesterday. He had a heart attack and passed away at the hospital. All men die, not all men truly live. Jonn did though, Lord knows Jonn did.

Wish I knew something to say to help with the pain, but after a sleepless night and some decidedly non-manly sobbing, I just don’t even know what to say. He was a friend, he was a mentor, and I’ll miss him. From meeting my wife to getting my job to the son I named after Jonn, I pretty much owe him in some part for everything I have, and it’s not a debt I take lightly. (Somewhat humorously, my last actual conversation with Jonn was about how his namesake, Ransom Jonn Seavey is a fat happy kid who just plays….until Moana comes on and then dude sits there all starry eyed. I postulated that giving him the name must have made him love what Jonn always called lovingly the “Little Brown Women.”)

As twisted as it is, I’ll never forget the exact moment that Jonn and I bonded. I was blogging at The Sniper, and he had this enterprise going, but the old schoolers will remember that if we got 10 comments back then than the post was on fire. But “Army Sergeant” invited the two of us to Winter Soldier, and although I *internet knew* Jonn, I didn’t *really* know him. We got to the hearings and the IVAW people segregated us from everyone else and gave us full time minders that literally read our posts as they went up. We were both almost at the bailing point when one guy got up and told some asinine story about how they blew up an old lady with a Mk 19, even though she was bringing them groceries. The story was so preposterous on the face of it that Jonn and I started guffawing. Here we were in a room full of dirty old 60’s hippies who were crying and Jonn and I were laughing so hard we started crying too.

I’m not going to go through his whole bio, you guys know it probably as well or better than I do. He was a hero in every sense of the word, but the most amazing thing was that dude was harder than iron, but he had a soft spot, which was forgiving but just as no-nonsense. He didn’t care what anyone did in the military but was grateful for that service, and never valued his own service higher than anyone else’s. The way he became the IVAW whisperer and helped some of those guys out was the epitome of what the brotherhood of veterans was all about. Sure, he’d give them no end of shit, but if they needed help Jonn would drop whatever he was doing and see that they got that help.

Nothing has been locked down as far as a service. We know he wanted to be buried in his uniform in Arlington, a place I’ve been to many times with him. As things become clearer I’ll let you guys know what’s up. Ditto the blog, we’ll talk about that after we’re done grieving.

If you are a person of faith, I’d ask you to pray for Jonn’s family during this time of profound mourning. If you are a warrior, drink to our friend as he makes his way to Valhalla. They’ll probably make him the sergeant at arms there so he can toss out the phonies that show up uninvited with ludicrous stories of Top Secret derring-do.

As I sat there last night remembering all the times I’d spent with Jonn I thought of Invictus, which fits Jonn to a T.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

RIP buddy. We love you.

Category: Arlington National Cemetary, We Remember

Comments (415)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Eden says:

    Regrettably, I have been MIA here for a little while (too much IRL stuff going on recently), so it was a gut punch to return from a four-day drill to get Animal’s FB message with the news about Jonn.

    I never got to meet Jonn in person, although we exchanged emails a few times. It always meant a lot to see his “Welcome Home!” at the bottom of his emails.

    My prayers are with his family, as well as our TAH family.

    Rest easy, PSG, we have the watch.

    • Skippy says:

      When I first found this site in late 2012 early 2013
      I was still in the Army
      The “Welcome Home” at the at the end of our E-Mail
      Conversations was a good feeling and ditto made me
      feel welcomed here at TAH..
      I am going to miss it

    • SFC_Holland says:

      Same, my wife gave me the sad news. This site helped me through 3 deployments.

    • Tom says:

      R.I.P Jonn you will be missed!

  2. OC says:

    Jonn, you were four years my junior, but you towered over me with your wit and wisdom. How does one say they lost a friend that they never met in person?

    RIP SFC.

  3. clamsgotlegs says:

    After all Jonn had been through, his passing is still a shock.

    I reflect on the words of an old charge nurse (a man) whose mother died suddenly of a heart attack. One moment she was standing, gathering laundry to iron, then she just dropped to the floor.

    He said his mother “died the right way”, quickly and without suffering. He only hoped he would go that way when his time came. It opened my eyes to the blessed mercy of a sudden passing.

    For this reason, I am glad that Jonn went quickly did not have to suffer even more hell from ALS.

    Love to all his family and the TAH family.

    His legacy lives strong.

    • Jo L says:

      Thank you.

    • Mrs. Joanne Tyler says:

      I am Jonn’s Mother ! ! I want to thank all of you that were his friend. You meant a lot to him. I am pleased that you are going to keep his blog going ! I am sure he is at peace.

      • 11B-Mailclerk says:

        God Bless you for giving to us a son such as Jonn. Our lives were enriched by your fine son and good Man among men. He truly is a worthy example for others.

      • LIright47 says:

        God Bless, Mrs. Tyler – this was so nice of you to visit here.

        Jonn gained a lot of respect from this blog for many reasons and the incredible list of comments on this Tribute Page supports that statement.

        Take care of yourself.

  4. 10thMountainMan says:

    See you on the other side, Jonn. Thanks so much for all the news, updates, stolen valor, and the great joy that have come from what you created. Thanks for your service, and thanks for making something for all of us.

  5. Devtun says:

    RIP SFC Jonn Lilyea. Thank you for your service to this great nation, and may the lord look after your family.

  6. Nonner says:

    Just checked in for the first time in a few days and my jaw about hit the ground. I suspect I’m not the only one who began saying “Welcome Home” when meeting other veterans as a result of Jonn’s influence. Started reading TAH around 5 years ago, forget how I found the site but I have profoundly grateful for Jonn’s work, as well as that of the rest of the TAH Staff. RIP SFC, you will be sorely missed.

  7. Old Trooper says:

    I have waited until now to add my own thoughts. I am saddened. I was hoping to get together with him, again, and laugh while he gives CV shit and then watch as he turns his ire on me for laughing at CV gettin’ it. He was a good man and a friend. He will be sorely missed.

    Godspeed Jonn.

  8. SFC D says:

    I always started my workday with a quick look at TAH with a cup of coffee. This place has always felt to me like an old café with a bunch of vets gathering for coffee and the usual veteran’s stories and tales. Now it feels like there’s an empty chair at the head of the table.

    Jonn, you left a big chair to fill, and we all miss you.

  9. SFC_Holland says:

    RIP. See you on Fiddler’s Green brother. We shared some good times.

  10. Alex says:

    I am so sorry to hear this. This page and John himself started and ended my day most days and to sign on to hear this just tore a hole in my heart. Condolences and I hope his legacy lives on. RIP

  11. Incorrigible says:

    As Clint Eastwood said in the movie “Unforgiven” as the character William Munny and the the “Kid says: “I ain’t like you you, Will.” Munny says, “yeah, take a drink kid, because we all got it comin’.”

  12. Commissar says:

    RIP Jonn Lilyea. Your words and the community that gathered together around your voice and your values remains.

  13. jerry920 says:

    Damn, Jonn and I stomped over the same Texas dirt in 2AD, although in different units. Always felt at home here.

    R.I.P. Jonn.

  14. Enigma4you says:

    I am fortunate to have called Jonn a friend. I value the memory of sitting on his deck, drinking a smuggled beer from Germany smoking smuggled cigars. He and this blog gave me a place to work through a very rough point in my life and finally seek the help I needed. I will miss my friend.

  15. M. Robison says:

    I did not know John, but this blog and the others associated have given this middle aged medically retired paratrooper a home. I never posted very much, but I have been a loyal reader for a few years now. From the early days of Master Sergeant Soup Sammish to now, this has been a home for laughs and serious topics, and John, you never failed. I raise this glass to you and to you all.

    We come from many branches of the service, but we are brothers and sisters one in all.

    Airborne all the way John!

  16. Just An Old Dog says:

    Iv’e been on Vacation since early May and off facebook. Just today I read the message.

    It floored me even though I knew Jonn was facing this.

  17. Rakkasan says:

    Gruntworks would like to express our deep sadness upon hearing that John had finished this Earthly Land Nav Course. Our prayers go out to his family, as well as the entire community that loved and respected him. I never met John, I just “internet” knew him. We exchanged emails a few times when working on a case or two. What a class act and great person. He will be missed.

    SGT P
    Editor In Chief
    Gruntworks Media

  18. Dwight Schwarz says:

    It has taken a while here to hear the sad news as to John’s passing, my F/B feed ceased as of July 26 as to any current events and just found out today as to current happenings via the internet search. My condolences to his family and to his followers on the site.

  19. Retired Master says:

    John, May you rest in eternal peace.

  20. Twist says:

    I’ve been MIA for a while and I was shocked to see this. RIP Jonn. Thank you for letting me into your TAH family.

  21. jonp says:

    Damn It. I was on vacation and out of reach of the internet for a couple of weeks and when I check in this is what I find.

    Crap…..RIP, Jonn

  22. Jim Bono says:

    I haven’t checked in for several weeks. I was lucky enough to meet Jonn and spend time with he and TSO. I’m truly sorry.

  23. MCPO NYC USN Ret. says:

    Getting ready for a road trip.

    I met and knew Jonn, I would like to think we were friends (in our own ways), I know we respected each other and worked hard on issues of the day as Senior Stolen Valor Leaders (SSVL) and Senior Enlisted Leaders (SEL) and my job is not done yet.

    I will soon have my article about Jonn completed, just a few details left to attend to.


  24. Adirondack Patriot says:

    I just read the awful news. Posted here years ago.
    Jonn and I exchanged emails over the years about the law but my TDY travels stopped me from posting and staying in touch.

    So sad, but grateful to have known him. See you Fiddler’s Green, Jonn.

  25. Redacted1775 says:

    I came here by way of a fat kid in a unit I used to belong to telling stories of derring-do that simply were not true (I also dropped a manhole cover on him with his leadership, some buddies of mine. They got a good laugh and got right to sorting this misguided individual out). I soon likened this blog to going to the local VFW post after a rough day on the bag (recruiting duty for the uninitiated); a place where I could just BS with like minded individuals after dealing with some insane antics from civilians. Most of my posts here have been in jest and at most only half serious. So all I can really say is Jonn, thanks for tolerating me. Yours is a great service to those of us who served and continue to serve. I hope it continues, if anything just to honor your memory.

  26. Big Steve says:

    Jonn was a real American, a breed that is gradually disappearing in America. He’s in heaven now, cuz he’s already done his time in hell.
    God bless you Jonn, and may your family find peace during this difficult time

  27. J Frazier says:


  28. MAJ Arkay says:

    Just got back from a several months long out-of-the-country trip, where internet was iffy at best. Shock, sadness, condolences to his family.

    I know Jonn is in the midst of taking over Valhalla, or at least giving Odin a run for his mead. RIP, Jonn. We’ll see you again.

  29. TonyF says:

    Holy cow, like many, I’ve been offline for awhile, experiencing many exciting adventures. I’m saddened to hear such news. Many blessings for a wonderful life shared with others and prayers to Jonn’s family upon his passing.

  30. All of us at mourn the passing of a good friend and fearless fighter for the truth, SFC John Lilyea.

    He’s in Heaven now, no more pain or worries. God knows, he had enough of hell battling ALS. I stood in awe of him as he kept TAH going all these years, exposing the phonies, fakes and frauds that steal valor. MCC is going to carry a permanent tribute to his memory, beginning later this week and we will always maintain our web site link back to “Ain’t Hell.”

    A salute to you, brother, from a one-time fellow NCO. Thanks for being my friend.

    MAJ Glenn MacDonald, USAR (Ret)
    VIETNAM: 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969
    Editor Emeritus

  31. John Lilyea has helped so many people he will never know.

    God Bless John Lilyea

  32. FourteenSierra says:

    This just breaks my heart. I’ve been away from the site for awhile – when i opened it today i just kind of sat here and felt awful. RIP, John.

  33. Peter Krarup says:

    TAH folks and family,

    Jonn helped me with several stolen valor inquiries and was always helpful, friendly, and professional. I wish I had known him personally, he was a good man.
    My condolences to all his family, friends, and associates, and my best wishes that TAH keeps on keeping on.

    Peter Krarup
    SFC, USA

  34. Ringo says:

    Only just heard of John’s passing. Very sad news for me. He was a great guy with wonderful sense of humor. I hope we meet on the other shore.

  35. SFC Jim Haltom says:

    Many are called and few respond. I admire all that service but elevate those that see it to the end. Those that find their niche, their comfort zone, their spot on the team will always be linked here and hereafter. Rest In Peace SFC Lilyea.