(Note by Bill Freeman:Â In 2019-2020, I had the pleasure and honor of writing the Fontana Honor Roll columns for the Herald News. Those columns included biographies and stories of the then-50 men with Fontana ties who were killed in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Global War on Terror.
Since that time, eight more men have been identified as either war dead or prisoners of war (P.O.W.âs). It is now once again my honor to share these additional stories in recurring Herald News columns. One of them, Army sergeant and POW Steve Featherstone, was a close personal friend of mine who passed a year ago.
The second is Navy Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Josh Showalter, a Fontana High School graduate and Global War on Terror casualty. I spoke about Josh at length with Joshâs father, Dave Showalter, a recently retired Fontana Unified School District teacher at Kaiser High School.
The following is Joshâs story as told by his father.)
By DAVE SHOWALTER
Joshua Brent Showalter, known to me as âBud,â died Aug. 10, 2004, in a crash of a Navy S3B Viking into the volcanic island of Kita Iwo Jima in the Sea of Japan.
Born on March 18, 1980, in Whittier, California, Josh was the third of five children (Erica, Matthew, Josh, Jared and Darby) we would have.
Josh was always full of energy and curious about how everything worked. He would disassemble every bike or scooter we ever brought home.
As he grew older, he loved to ride his skateboard. One time he put on his sisterâs white headband, like a ninja. He barreled down the sidewalk and ran smack into a brick wall. Thus, the scar on his head that showed so prominently in his Navy photo.
Josh also loved getting up before everyone in the house on the weekends. His adventures with cooking breakfast took on a whole new meaning when he set the kitchen cabinets on fire trying to make Pop Tarts. Never one to panic, he calmly walked down the hall to our bedroom and announced in a quiet voice that the kitchen was on fire.
When he started playing sports, he was probably the hardest working player I ever coached, never one to give less than everything he had. He loved playing soccer and baseball. I think soccer was his love and he only tolerated baseball to please me. His other love of sport involved trap shooting with his Grandpa John. He stayed this sport well into his teen years and was the California State Juniors Champion in 1997.
Josh also loved to go to the Lockheed aircraft plant where Grandpa John worked so he could see the airplanes. He always wanted to fly. He talked about joining the service when he graduated from high school, but only if he got a job with planes.
During Joshâs senior year in high school, I was changing careers from accounting to teaching. I was home most of the time and it was great to sit every morning and afternoon with him in our family room, just talking and playing on the computer. Those were some of my best times ever with him.
He graduated from Fontana High School in 1998 with a Silver Certificate in Engineering.
After a few months, he decided that he was going to enlist in the Navy, which offered him the opportunity to work in the aviation field. He would finally get his chance to work with planes.
He attended boot camp in Great Lakes, IL., the same place his Grandpa Showalter went to boot camp in the early 1940s. Ricka (his mom) and I attended his graduation in February of 1999. After that, he was off to Pensacola, Florida for aviation electronics training. You could see just how happy he was.
Upon completion, he was stationed at North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego. His first squadron was the Shamrocks.
It was during this time that he met his future wife, Jennifer. He was growing into a strong young man.
On Oct. 28, 2000, Jennifer and Josh welcomed into this world a daughter, Mikayla Marie Showalter. You could see just how proud he was to be a father. He took on a whole new responsibility in being a dad. Whenever he was out to sea, he now had something pulling him back. He missed his wife and daughter so much. I would email him pictures of our visits to San Diego, and he was always so happy to receive those pictures.
Josh eventually was transferred to the VS35 Blue Wolves. He deployed for nine months aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln at the beginning of the Iraq War.
It was a tough time for Josh and not only because of his job. At home, many hard times befell the family. His mother developed breast cancer and had to have surgery, and his Grandpa John passed away two weeks later. This followed deaths of grandparents from his wifeâs side and an aunt from his motherâs side. The Navy sent him home early because of all the distractions.
Josh arrived home unannounced on March 29, 2003. Josh and his wife had not told us he was on his way, so as to surprise us. I was home when they arrived unannounced at our house on that afternoon. It was so good to have him home.
His mother was not home, so they hid their car down the street. When she drove up, they hid in the bedroom. She walked in the door, and I told her she was about to receive the best birthday present ever. Yes, it was her birthday. Josh then came springing down the hall, saying, âIâm home!â She screamed so loud Iâm sure it contributed to my hearing loss. It was a great day in the Showalter household.
When Josh reported back to North Island, he was there when the Blue Wolves flew off the aircraft carrier to North Island to prepare to take President Bush to the USS Abraham Lincoln. He was a great Navy man. He would not even tell his dad what was going on. When I asked him about it when it was over, he just shrugged his shoulders and said it was just part of his job. Just part of his job! Five years after graduating from high school and heâs involved in flying the president of the United States to an aircraft carrier.
In June of 2003, he called and asked if I would like to go out on the USS John C Stennis for a day. I jumped at the chance and had a great day with my son. I meet Commander Skip Lussier, who had flown the plane for President Bush. I recognized him from the newscast. He was Joshâs commanding officer.
Later that day, we went to Commander Lussierâs squadron headquarters. He took me in the back to see Navy 1. I took a few pictures of Josh, not realizing they would be treasured more than I ever thought a little more than a year later.
During the next year, Josh enjoyed his time at home. Babysitting Mikayla during the day, they enjoyed lots of daddy/baby naptime. He also loved to come up from San Diego and spend time with his sister, Erica, and brother, Jared. They went to lunch and a movie with Erica, or to a Dropkick Murphys concert with Jared. Josh was the big brother to the max. The three musketeers were together again. On his last visit home, he went to Disneyland with his mother and Erica, after which we picked up a new puppy named Gus. He was leaving on deployment, this time aboard the USS John C Stennis. Jennifer was pregnant with their second child.
We always worried about him going out, but I would exchange emails with him regularly and that helped. He left in May and Jennifer was having some troubles with the pregnancy, but we hoped for the best. Josh was sent home at the end of June because of the pregnancy. It was a difficult time for all of us. He told me the new baby would be a boy, but that the pregnancy troubles were serious. We prayed for the best. When he arrived back at the Stennis, Josh started emailing me again. I tried to cheer him up with pictures and support.
On Aug. 10, he boarded a flight with Lt. Commander Scott Zellum, Lt. Patrick Myrick and Lt. James Pupplo. Joshâs last email to me was sent just before they left. He was upbeat and talked about things we would do when he got home.
Josh didnât return from that flight.
I know he is with his brother Matthew, Rickaâs parents, Grandpa John, Grandma Dorothy and Grandma Jane, my parents (Grandpa Lyle and Grandma Betty), and all our loved ones who have passed. They are all helping Josh take care of his son, Jonathan, who followed his dad home on Sept. 30, 2004. They will take care of my âBud,â until we all meet again.
Additionally, Josh now has two new nieces, Camryn Jaynes and Natalie Jaynes, and a nephew, Oliver Joshua Showalter.
Josh touched many lives, and everyone misses him terribly.
To the crew of Blue Wolves 704, you are all of our heroes. Your families are in our prayers constantly. God bless everyone who helped our families during the times of our loss.
(As always, Bill Freeman would love to hear from you if you have any new information about any of the Fontana Honor Roll honorees or men we missed. Please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, we invite you to attend the Fontana Honor Roll Traveling Exhibit on Saturday, March 19 from 4-7 p.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, located across from Alder Middle School, at 7526 Alder Avenue in Fontana. More information will be provided in future Fontana Honor Roll columns.)