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Marine from Lawrenceville ‘with big heart’ killed in vehicle accident near Camp Lejeune, NC

The Defense Department said Friday that Marine Lance Corporal Jonathan Gierke, 19, of Lawrenceville and another Marine were killed when a vehicle overturned.

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — The Defense Department announced Friday that Marine Lance Corporal Jonathan Gierke, 19, of Lawrenceville was one of two Marines killed Wednesday while riding in a military vehicle that overturned.

Lance Corporal Gierke was riding with 18 other Marines in a seven-ton military vehicle near their base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Investigators say the driver took a turn too fast and the vehicle overturned. Also killed was Private First Class Zachary Riffle of Kingswood, West Virginia.

Seventeen Marines were injured. Three of them were still in hospitals Friday night.

According to investigators, a second Marine vehicle was following behind, and hit one of the people from the first vehicle who was ejected.

A spokesman for the North Carolina Highway Patrol said the driver of the first vehicle was traveling too fast for the turn and is facing charges that include speeding and death by motor vehicle.

Lance Corporal Gierke’s father told 11Alive Friday night that his son, growing up, always talked about wanting a meaningful career, a career with impact and purpose. And, his father said Jonathan found it in the Marines.

Jonathan graduated in 2020 from Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, where he was active in Junior ROTC. And in March of last year, Jonathan entered active duty as a Marine, based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

“Jonathan had the biggest heart of anyone you’d ever meet,” his father said, “always kind, willing to help.”

He said Jonathan had already made a big impact on those who knew him in both high school and in the Marines.

And Lance Corporal Gierke was already earning distinction; he was awarded the National Defense and Global War on Terrorism service medal.

Now his father, a veteran of 20 years in the Navy, displays on Facebook a ribbon of mourning along with the Marine Corps emblem--signifying his grief and his pride. The family has not yet announced funeral plans.