Sunday, March 28, 2010

RIP Sean Michael Thomas

Yesterday marked the three year anniversary of the death of a dear friend and comrade.  Sean was such a great person.  Anyone who ever met him instantly loved him.  He would never dream of hurting anyone, in fact he would do anything for any of his friends.  If I was having a bad day while we were deployed, I would just look forward to stopping in Sean's office on my way "home" for the evening and he would make the day better.  He just had such a calming way about him.  The day he was killed was such a shock.  We went to Baghdad as a small group of less than 70 soldiers so we were all pretty close.  Before we deployed we were told we were going over to work at the US Embassy and it was the best as far as deployments to Iraq went.  It was true...we were spoiled in that we worked a typical 8-5 work week with some of us even enjoying one day off per week.  We had a beautiful pool where we could enjoy soaking up some sun and relax or go swimming.  The entire compound was considered "safe" as far as military establishments in Iraq.  We were surrounded by security.  All vehicles coming and going were searched and sniffed out by bomb dogs.  Unfortunately there was nothing that could be done about the incoming rockets and mortars.  The insurgents would fire rounds in the general direction of the International Zone (commonly called the Green Zone) in hopes of hitting one of the many important buildings or dignitaries that were within the compound.  On March 27, 2007 they hit and killed two people just outside of the US Embassy building where most of the people in my unit worked.  Sean was a victim of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  He had just been playing ping pong (something he did almost every night) beside the embassy pool and he wanted to head out to call his wife before heading back to his room for the night.  That's when the rocket came in.  There's no way of knowing EXACTLY what happened.  They say the rocket hit a tree above his head and detonated.  Some say the reason for his death was falling and hitting his head as a result from the blast.  Others that were on the scene say he took shrapnel to his femoral artery and bled out.  I'll never know for sure, but that's ok.  All I know is that he died due to a random act of violence.  It's doesn't get easier to think gets harder when I think about his young family.  Sean had recently been married before our deployment and had been home on his 2 week R&R when his daughter was born in September.  It makes me sad to know this beautiful girl (who looks JUST LIKE HIM now) will never know her daddy. 

Here's a clip of the news article:

BAGHDAD - Two Americans, a contractor and a soldier, were killed in a rocket attack on the heavy guarded Green Zone on Tuesday, according to statements from the U.S. Embassy and the military.

Five other people were wounded, one contractor who was seriously hurt and three with slight wounds. A second soldier also was wounded in the attack, but the military did not give a condition.

Insurgents and militia fighters routinely fire rockets and mortars into the Green Zone, the nominally secure area in central Baghdad that is site of the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi government and parliament. The attacks seldom cause casualties or damage because they are poorly aimed and the zone contains much open space.

I'll leave you with a few pictures of Sean from our deployment...

Here's Sean when we first landed in Baghdad.  We were all hopeful of making a difference on our deployment and were actually happy to finally be in Iraq (after months of training in the US and Kuwait)

This is some of the people lined up for the "angel flight".  The medical personnel said they had never seen such a large turnout to support one person. 

Another view of the line of people there to send of MSG Thomas and the female contractor that were killed.  This was one of the hardest days of my life.  I still remember it very vividly.

One of the two helicopters that flew in to transport the bodies of the deceased.  If you open up this picture you can see the piece of paper in the windshield of the helicopter that says "hero". 

The entire ceremony was handled very respectfully.  It was a very hard day knowing Sean's body was heading back to be buried.  We still had over three months until the rest of us would be returning home.

I HATE that this is the ONLY picture of me with Sean.  Why do I have to be such a retard?  Why couldn't I have posed for a nice picture with him? 

A picture from the memorial service.  Between the Angel Flight and the memorial service, I don't know which day was harder.  I still tear up when I hear "Amazing Grace" and have even had to walk out of church to regain my composure. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and for looking at the pictures of Sean.  Yesterday some members of my unit met up to go to Sean's gravesite.  It kills me that I wasn't there.  I was thinking about going home last week and decided against it.  When I found out they were getting together to honor Sean yesterday I was heartbroken that I didn't want to spend the money or deal with travelling with Maddie and I had to miss out on that opportunity.  Next year I hope to be able to go.  Even though next year I'll have two little ones to travel with.  It's worth it to be able to get together with come fellow comrades to honor a fallen one. 

Rest in peace, Sean.  Know that we think about you all the time and we remember all the good times we were blessed to spend with you.  My life is better because I had the opportunity to know you.  I treasure the memories with you and will carry them with me forever.


  1. I just stumbled across your blog and wanted to comment. I grew up with Sean in Hughesville, PA. He was very good friends with my brother since they were kids and he was always over at my house. He was one of a kind to say the least LOL, and is missed very much. The last time I saw him, was just before he deployed to Iraq, he had stopped by my parents house to say goodbye. My mom said she would pray for him and he said, not to worry about him as he was in the safest place over there. Needless to say, I was stunned when we heard that he was killed. I think about him alot, and google his name occasionally which is how I came across your blog. I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to remember him 3 years later. Your post brought tears to my eyes once again.
    -Maggie Sheehan

  2. Maggie~thank you so much for commenting! Sean was such a special guy and we're all so blessed we had a chance to know him.

    We all went into the deployment thinking we were going to the safest place was a "posh" place to be, working in a palace, swimming in the palace pool after work! We were pretty spoiled. Unfortunately there's no such things as "safe" Baghdad. We learned that lesson the hard way.

    I think of Sean all the time and think about how much his little girl would have him wrapped around her finger! She's a lucky girl to have him for a daddy, even though she'll never get to know him.

    I don't know if you're on facebook but there are several videos that have been posted by friends of mine (if you're friends with Sean's mom you'd be able to see them I'm sure). I watch the videos and just remember Sean...he was such a good man...

    Thanks again for commenting! I'm glad you were able to find my memory of Sean.