He Was Brilliant and Nice: 1st Lt. Jonathan Shine


He Was Brilliant—and Nice

by Col. Alexander P. Shine, USA (Ret.) and Gail Caprio

JONATHAN CAMERON SHINE is honored on Panel 6W, Row 2 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

On Oct. 15, 1970, Army 1st Lt. Jonathan C. Shine was leading his platoon of the 25th Infantry Division in the Iron Triangle area of Vietnam when they became engaged in a fierce firefight with a much larger enemy force. Ignoring a head wound, Jon encouraged the platoon medic to take care of another soldier. A few minutes later, Lt. Shine was dead.

Those who knew Jon during his school days would remember him as a multi-talented young man. Consistently a top student, he was a “Star Man”—in the top 5 percent of his class—all four years at West Point. Jon was also an athlete and leader. But the qualities which most stood out in Jon were his integrity and his warm friendliness and interest in everyone he met. People respected Jon because he lived in accordance with a high code of integrity and honor; and they liked him because he genuinely liked them, whatever their status or position in life. As a West Point classmate said of him, “Jon Shine was a class act.”

As president of his Briarcliff, N.Y., high school student body, Jon and his equally talented vice president, Gail Morrison, stood at the top of their class, while also developing a friendship which grew deeper and led to their marriage in February 1970. Only a few months later, Jon shipped out for Vietnam. Gail was attending the funeral of one of their friends, another soldier, when the news of Jon’s death reached her. With the courage of a soldier’s wife and faith in God, Gail rallied and was an encouragement to many others as the body of this outstanding young man, and the love of her life, was laid to rest in the West Point cemetery.

The youngest of four siblings—all of whom served in Vietnam—Jon was the first to be killed, but sadly he would not be the last. A little over two years later, the oldest of the Shine children, Lt. Col. Anthony Shine, an Air Force fighter pilot, went down during a bombing run and was missing in action for nearly 25 years before his remains were recovered and buried with full honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

Any description of Jon Shine would be incomplete without mention of the central focus of his adult life: his strong and steadfast Christian faith. Jon surrendered his life to Jesus Christ as a plebe at West Point and, consistently through his cadet years and the 16 months of Army service that followed, he sought to live a life that would serve men and bring honor to God. In a letter to his brother Al, who was serving in Vietnam during Jon’s senior year at West Point, Jon quoted Psalm 27:1:  “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”  He faced life and death with courage born of confidence in the Lord.

As his widow, Gail, said of Jon, “He was brilliant; but he was nicer than he was brilliant.”