The mother and sisters of John Tumilson talked today about the Rockford native’s love of being in the military and working with the Navy SEALS. Tumilson, who was 35, died in Afghanistan along with 29 other U.S. soldiers when their helicopter was shot down.

His mother Kathleen says John first talked about joining the SEALS when he was 12 or 13 and really liked it once he got in. She says John like to run and she told him one time that he must run to relieve stress, but he said “No mom, I go to work to relieve stress, he absolutely loved his job, he loved his country, and we are so proud of what he did,” Tumilson said.

Tumilson says her son liked to joke around and that is something she will miss. Tumilson says that is the hardest part because one year for Christmas she didn’t think he was going to come home, but he surprised her by jumping out of a box. A couple of years ago a friend came by and said he was bringing gifts for John, and when she stepped out the door, John was hiding around the corner.

“He had many nieces and nephews that loved him dearly loved, and he promised them that he would be home for Christmas, so that is one promise that he is not going to be able to keep,” Tumilson said. Tumilson says family members thought it was special that John was a SEAL, probably more so than he did.

“I asked him one year when he came home if I could get a fire truck and we could do a caravan into town, and he looked at me like I was from Mars,” Tumilson said. She says her son would like all the people who have put up flags in town since his death, but he would not like that they were drawing attention to him. “Because that’s not why he did it, he did it so that we could be free and so that we could live life and enjoy it like he wanted us to,” Tumilson says.

Tumilson’s sisters Kristie Pohlman and Joy McMeekan say their brother was one of the few boys in a neighborhood full of girls and he would do things like jumping from the TV antennae with an umbrella. Pohlman says her brother was always a leader. She says even though he was the baby of the family, she doesn’t think he knows how much they looked up to him and followed him.

Pohlman says her brother didn’t back down from his convictions. Pohlman says he stood his ground for his beliefs, and didn’t care if he offended someone whether it was for his religion or the military. While he said what he thought, she says he somehow never offended people as everybody loved him.

Pohlman says her brother believed that what he was doing in Afghanistan was making a difference and he didn’t back away from the danger it brought. “He wouldn’t have wanted to die any other way, I mean he truly, truly loved what he did,” Pohlman says, “And he knew every time that that was a risk that could happen and he was willing to lay down his life for this country, without a doubt. If somebody would have told him that day ‘if you get on this this helicopter it’s gonna crash and you’re going to die,’ he would have jumped on it without giving it a second thought, that’s just the kind of man that he was,” Pholman says.

Kathleen Tumilson says her family wants to thank everyone for the support they’ve received since John’s death. She says it has been amazing as they have had people there from coast-to-coast, with food brought in and prayers from everyone. Tumilson says they really feel the support of everyone and really appreciate it.

Tumilson’s body will return to Iowa today and his funeral is set for 10 a.m. Friday at the Rudd, Rockford, Marble Rock Community School gymnasium. Kathleen Tumilson and her daughters made their comments in an interview on KGLO radio in Mason City and you can hear the entire interview on the KGLO website