Illustration by Katie McBride
Bronze star
J.P. Shannon studied leadership in the Jepson School. Then, says the Army, he exemplified it.

Dusty, gray, desolate, and “hotter than you can describe” — this is how 1st Lt. Jonathan “J.P.” Shannon, ’14, remembers Iraq, where he served from December 2015 through early September. It was his first deployment in the Middle East.

He returned home with the Bronze Star Medal for “superior leadership and dedication to duty.” The award is the fourth-highest individual military award, according to the U.S. Army.

While stationed at Baghdad International Airport, Shannon oversaw all incoming freight. Between two and 10 planes loaded with vehicles, armaments, and equipment arrived daily.

In a typical week, he logged more than 100 hours of work as he and his unit received, catalogued, and inspected the cargo and verified documentation before negotiating final delivery with the Iraqi military, special forces, and other coalition members.

Shannon says that his long hours encouraged the more than 50 service members under his command, who often worked equally long hours alongside him, to import the more than $1.5 billion in equipment. For Shannon, this was a point of pride.

“Our organization became renowned for what we were able to accomplish in short amounts of time,” he says. “This [medal] is their award. I was just doing my job.”

Since returning home, Shannon is planning trainings, starting a new position in his battalion, and learning new skills. He still thought of himself as a kid when he graduated in 2014. Not anymore.

“I am a combat veteran. That’s a label that sticks with you, for sure.”