Long before he decided to join the Army, Jonathan K. Peney was a determined young man, according to his friends. At a young age, the Marietta native began rock climbing. He eventually climbed at the elite level.
"He was pretty determined to do what regular people haven't done." Adrian Prelipcenau, a friend and fellow climber, told the AJC.
The 22-year-old Ranger was killed Tuesday in Afghanistan while trying to give medical aid to a fellow soldier who had been wounded. Peney, a highly trained medic, is being hailed as a hero for his actions. Peney died in Kandahar province from wounds sustained when he was shot by enemy forces, according to the Department of Defense.
Peney, who enlisted in the Army in 2005, had served as a combat medic for more than two years. He was on his fourth deployment to Afghanistan. Peney was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia, according to the Department of Defense.
"Spc. Peney was the epitome of our Ranger medics -- warrior first, expert in advanced medical treatment, and selflessly dedicated to the care of others," Col. Michael E. Kurilla, commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment, said in a statement released by the Army.
"Spc. Peney did not hesitate to move under heavy fire to the care of another wounded Ranger," Kurilla said. "He is a hero to our nation, the 75th Ranger Regiment and his family."
In between his military deployments, Peney found time to meet his future wife and fall in love, friends said. Peney met Kristin E. Felton in Savannah during an outing with mutual friends. The couple was married in Greece last summer, Felton's father, Michael Felton told the AJC.
"We didn't get to spend a lot of time with him," Michael Felton said. "But they were very happy, and that's the important thing."
Kristin Felton and Peney's mother, Sue L. Peney of LaGrange, traveled to Dover, Dela., for the arrival of Jonathan Peney's casket, Michael Felton said. The Army will keep the soldier's body for several days, he said.
The soldier had previously received numerous medals, including the Army Commendation Medal, and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal and Meritorious Service Medal.
A climbing friend and a fellow Ranger told the AJC late Wednesday that Peney had recently graduated from Ranger school. Peney, the friend said, was the type of guy always willing to help.
"That's in character," said the friend, who asked not to be named due to his military role.
Prelipcenau, of Norcross, recalled Peney years ago volunteering to help fellow climbing friends with a business venture. Peney, then a teenager, helped build a climbing wall in Suwanee, Prelipcenau said. Even then, Peney thought long and hard before making decisions, such as the one that sent him into the military, he said.
"He just wanted to help," Prelipcenau said. "He wanted to take life to the next level. He wasn’t afraid of anything.”
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.