Friends, family, uniformed personnel, prominent dignitaries and community members attended the memorial for Jonathan Buchan at Grace Baptist Church on Monday.
Buchan, 33, was a local resident and deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Century Station. He died on Jan. 20.
During the memorial, speakers noted that Buchan’s death still presented its mysteries but that it was not without warning. Those close to Buchan acknowledged he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The former Marine served two tours in Afghanistan before becoming a deputy.
In attendance were L.A. County Sheriff Robert Luna, Capt. Justin Diez of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, members of Buchan’s platoon who served with him in Afghanistan (2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Recon Battalion, 1st Marine Division) and more than 100 uniformed deputies from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
Luna acknowledged that Buchan was no ordinary member of his department — having been named class Honor Recruit out of the 69 recruits in his academy class during a ceremony held at College of the Canyons in January 2020, an event attended by then-Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
“He served our community by putting his life and his mental well-being on the line to keep each and every one of us safe. Not many will leave a legacy like Jonathan did with all of us,” said Luna. “The void created by the sudden death of someone beloved is hard to grasp and the pain of Jonathan’s death is not something that can go away with just a sincere condolence or a bouquet of flowers.”
Luna continued by saying what made Buchan’s death bearable was the fact that the hundreds in attendance had each other and could share their memories of him.
Buchan’s father, Ken, gave a eulogy that was filled with lament, his own experiences following his son’s death, and a beautiful portrait of his son’s personality that made the audience both laugh and cry.
As Ken looked out onto the crowd, amazed by its size, he opened with a joke.
“For a guy that we had trouble getting to come to his own birthday party,” said Ken, as the auditorium filled with laughter. “Thank you for being here.”
Ken said his son’s first job was working at Stonefire Grill, which, at first, confused him but he ultimately attributed it to Buchan having “a servant’s heart.” The job at the restaurant was just the beginning of a long resume of serving.
After his two tours in Afghanistan he served as a school security guard at Trinity Classical Academy before becoming a weapons instructor at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Port Hueneme because, as Ken said, “Somebody decided that the Seabees should learn how to shoot.”
Ken said his son was a devout Christian and had a reputation for not swearing, using “gosh darn” and “gee whiz” instead of their substitutes. However, following his deployment in Afghanistan, Ken said Buchan “had to give himself permission to have a beer and cuss once in a while.”
One thing Buchan’s two sisters and father made a point to acknowledge was, because they are a Christian family, they all had their contentions with God following his death, and they elaborated on them throughout their eulogies.
“I am overwhelmed by the pain of this broken world. Why would a loving and gracious God allow for you to cure your pain that broke your soul and my little boy to struggle each day just to do the simplest of tasks?” said Kimberly Klopfenstein, Buchan’s older sister. “God didn’t have to allow you to be born with the struggles that he did. God could have taken away the pain that you’ve struggled so deeply with, that he didn’t. He did it for reasons I will never, ever understand.”
“There are things in this life that are so hard to understand. Losing Jon is one of those things. I may not ever completely understand the reasons why in this lifetime,” said his younger sister Lindsay Pulford. “I know the one who knows and I’ve come to see that it’s through our deepest suffering that God has taught me the deepest lessons, and if we’ll trust him for it, we can come through to the unshakable assurance that he’s in charge… Suffering is never for nothing.”
Ken said he could not conclude his eulogy without addressing the suffering his son had gone through before his death.
“For centuries there has been documentation of the fact that warriors suffering from battle have been afflicted by the consequences of war. I prefer the term as soldiers from World War I coined. The term is, ‘shellshock.’ Those of us on the outside cannot begin to pretend to comprehend these things,” said Ken. “I’m fully convinced, I believe… The Jon you know, the Jon that has been described here today, would never have wished that any of us would want to be sitting here under these circumstances.”
Ken said he had to answer why everyone in that room was gathered and, while not naming any group directly, he said what he said because he felt it was the only way to honor his son and to honor God.
“I don’t want to look like I’m picking on anybody or playing with emotions, but it’s probably going to sound like that. We have many veterans and first responders, some are members of both groups as Jon was in. What I’m about to say could apply to anyone here,” said Ken.
Ken then told the biblical parable of Jesus and the lepers, saying the group could not save themselves and had to look outward to ease their suffering. Ken said, “I think by now you know we’re not talking about lepers any more.
“From the heart of a broken father who will miss his son the rest of my days and for the rest of my life, we’ll hold Jon’s grieving mother and watch Jon’s broken-hearted sisters and their husbands shepherd Jon’s nieces and nephews through the future. I tell you this. If you can’t fix yourself it won’t be easy,” said Ken. “Please do as the lepers did and cry out to the master.”
Following the memorial, Buchan’s family was presented with his sheriff’s badge and U.S. flags from the U.S. Marine Corps and the Sheriff’s Department.