Written by Chris Boyle, Editorial@Antnonews.com Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00
Jonathan Kaloust, a 23-year-old Navy SEAL who hailed from Massapequa, lost his life last Wednesday in a freak Humvee crash during a training exercise in Fort Knox, Ky.
A 2007 graduate of Massapequa High School and standout wrestler, Kaloust was recruited to Binghamton University, where he continued to wrestle while pursuing a political science degree.
According to Joe Catalanotto, his former Massapequa High School Varsity wrestling coach, serving his country as a member of the Navy’s elite special-operations force had always been Kaloust’s dream.
“When he graduated, he told me that he wanted to be a Navy SEAL,” he said. “Honestly, the only person I ever coached that I could see going through that kind of training would probably be Jon.”
Catalanotto was a constant in Kaloust’s formative athletic years, forging a close bond with him as he grew into a strong, determined young man.
“I first started coaching Jon when he was a seventh grader at Berner Middle School,” he said. “As he got older, I was always helping out with the Junior Varsity and Varsity teams, so I pretty much coached him his entire career...and in his senior year, I became head coach at the high school, so we worked out together a lot.”
Kaloust’s resolve and intensity on the wrestling mat earned him respect of both teammates and opponents, culminating in a fourth-place finish in the Nassau County Finals in his senior year in the competitive 145-pound division, according to Catalanotto.
“He was a tireless worker...he was the kid on the team that a coach would say he wished he had 10 of,” he said. “He was quiet, but he was a really tough competitor, so his teammates would refer to him as the ‘Silent Assassin.’ He’d always be the first one at practice and the last one to leave, and there was never a workout that was too difficult for him...just really mentally and physically tough.”
After Kaloust moved on to college, he remained in touch with his old coach; after graduating from Binghamton and enlisting in the Navy, he contacted Catalanotto saying that he wanted to take some time to give back the high school that had given him so much.
“He had a few months between the time he graduated from Binghamton until he had to report to the SEALs, so he asked me if he could come back and work with the wrestling team,” he said. “He volunteered for three months with the team, coming to all of our practices, matches and tournaments...he would show the team high-level techniques that he had learned in college.”
Joining the Navy, Kaloust accomplished his goal of becoming a SEAL. He achieving the rank of Special Warfare Operator Third Class before the fatal crash, the cause of which is still under investigation, according to a statement issued by the Navy.
Catalanotto was mowing his lawn when he received a phone call bearing the news.
“I thought, wow, he did something great and they want me to comment on it...that’s the first thing that came to my mind when I got the call,” he said. “And then...I got the news that he had died. It was terrible...I called his family in Massapequa and spoke to his mother later that night. I just knew it was the right thing to do.”
Another member of the Massapequa staff who provided insight into Kaloust was Matthew McCauley, his high school guidance counselor.
“He was nice, quiet, independent, respectful and very business-like,” he said. “We did well in school...in his senior year, when everyone else was going backwards, he challenged himself with some AP classes. He was a good student, and I never heard anything negative about him, in any form. He did what he needed to do and he did it better than most, and he was happy with that.”
The Massapequa School District also acknowledged the incident, issuing a statement on the passing of Kaloust, saying, “The District mourns the loss of a great student and a fine young man who was a great asset to his community and his country.”
In recalling his protégé, Catalanotto said that many students come and go throughout a teaching career; however, someone like Jonathan Kaloust is one-of-a-kind, and the fact that his life was snuffed out all too early is tragic beyond words.
“I could just go on and list off every positive thing you could say about a person,” he said. “He was a great kid...when he won a match, there was no showboating, and when he lost, there was no carrying on...he would just say, ‘I’ll get it next time.’ I will miss him.”
Kaloust’s wake is scheduled for Thursday, with a funeral service to be held on Friday morning.