Jonathan R. Madonna did not join the Army with thoughts of being labeled a hero. As a combat engineer and Army Reserve staff sergeant, he just wanted to do the best job he knew how.
But Madonna, son of Carol Madonna of Jordan, found himself in just that role recently when he was announced at midfield during high school football's biggest contest - the U.S. Army sponsored All-American Bowl.
The 2002 Cicero-North Syracuse graduate was honored as a soldier-hero, one of more than 90 throughout the Army who had been awarded either the Silver Star, Bronze Star or Purple Heart during deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan. The soldier-heroes were each matched with an all-star player before the kick off of the contest that pits the best players in the nation against each other in an East versus West matchup.
"I was selected for this honor because I earned two Purple Hearts during my last deployment to Iraq," said Madonna. "It means a lot to me because I get to share some of the Army values that have made me who I am today with some of America's youth."
During activities in the days leading up to game day, Madonna was involved with the players, as well as other soldier-heroes in events such as a skills competition, a barbeque and a banquet held in their honor.
"We have had the chance to meet some inspirational players and share our stories with the public. I really enjoyed my tour of the Alamo and meeting some of the great people of San Antonio," said Madonna.
Madonna says he believes that not only players, but young people overall, can benefit from serving their country, whether in the military or in projects close to where they live. "It is important to serve because many of the same qualities that are instilled in you through basic training, and throughout your career, are the same values that will help you accomplish goals in your life," said Madonna.
Today, Madonna is a combat engineer with the 444th Engineer Company in Oswego. He has completed seven years of military service and has deployed to the Middle East three times.