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Patriotic tribute for fallen Hoosier soldier made thousands of miles away

Three years after Sgt. Jonathon Hunter's death in Afghanistan, an unknown man honored him and a fellow soldier in a Massachusetts bar.

COLUMBUS, Ind. — A patriotic tribute made in Massachusetts is honoring a fallen soldier from Indiana.

And this small gesture is resonating across the country.

In the three years since Sgt. Jonathon Hunter's death in Afghanistan, his dad Mark has done everything he can to salute his son's service. Hunter, a Columbus East graduate, was a decorated soldier rising quickly through the ranks of the military.

He was killed at age 23.

"I always worry about him being forgotten, a forgotten memory, you know," Mark Hunter said. "That's why, with all this, he's never going to be forgotten."

In Columbus, that's clear, from the park named in Jonathon's honor, to the plaque with his face and biography and the powerful scene in 2017 when hundreds lined the streets in the pouring rain to honor this fallen Hoosier hero.

But last week, Mark Hunter learned about an unexpected tribute made quietly, thousands of miles away.

He saw a photo online with a patriotic promise.

"I was tagged on Facebook," Hunter explained. "Then after that, everybody starting sending it to me. And after that it just blew up like it did on the internet, just went viral!"

The photo was posted by The CabbyShack restaurant in Plymouth, Massachusetts about a customer's kind gesture on Sunday, August 2, the third anniversary of Sgt. Jonathon Hunter's death.

"Evidently a young man came in, ordered three beers and said he was meeting two friends," Hunter said.

"The man sat down for 15 minutes and stood up and walked away," explained Gene Dupuis, manager at The CabbyShack. "The girls thought it was kind of odd that the drinks were still there, so they went over to clear the table and found two drinks that hadn't been touched, pictures of both of the soldiers and a note that said their name and their rank and 'Killed In Action, August 2, 2017.'"

Those soldiers were Sgt. Jonathan Hunter from Columbus, Indiana and Specialist Chris Harris from North Carolina. Both men were killed when Taliban suicide bombers attacked their convoy.

At the bottom of the note left with those beers?

The words, "not forgotten!"

"I cried. I mean, that was right after the third year anniversary," Hunter said. "It means a lot. Because that's my goal. For him never to be forgotten. That's why I started a scholarship fund in his name."

Hunter thinks the mystery customer who left the note may have served alongside the men in his son's convoy. He remembers a soldier who lived in Boston traveling hours to be at his son's funeral in 2017.

At the restaurant last week, Hunter said it very well could have been that fellow soldier - missing his friends. The message he shared has resonated all across the country.

The CabbyShack's post has been shared thousands of times.For Mark Hunter, it's special: a private toast to service and now public tribute to sacrifice.

"It just touches my heart," Hunter said, "as it did many many other people that didn't even know him. They just felt the gesture was true and kind and worthy."

At the end of the month, there's a program saluting Sgt. Hunter's service by the Indiana chapter of Honor and Remember. They're presenting a personalized flag to Hunter's family on August 29 at 4:30 p.m. at the park that bears Jonathon's name at the corner of Indiana and State streets in Columbus. 

The public is welcome to attend.