Friday, March 30, 2007

Sean M. Thomas killed by indirect fire during combat operations

HOWARD — The morning before he died, National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Sean Michael Thomas forwarded an inspirational email to his wife, Carrie, from his office in the Baghdad’s Green Zone.

It contained music and photos of smiling children and a series of warm sentiments about life and love. Among them:

“I believe you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.”

“I believe that heroes are the people who do what needs to be done when it has to be done, regardless of the consequences.”

“I believe that no matter how much your heart is broken, the world doesn’t stop for your grief.”

“I believe that the people that you care about most in life are taken from you much too soon.”

Just hours after sending this email on Tuesday, Sean Thomas, 33, was killed in a missile attack as he was walking across the street to his room. He was 33 years old and is survived by his mother and father; four siblings; wife Carrie, 25; and daughter Alexa, six months.

“I was always afraid for him,” Carrie said tearfully in the living room of the home she shares with her parents in the Nittany Valley. “I’d tell him, ‘Don’t go out in a helicopter. Don’t go out on the convoys. Stay safe.’ And he was safe. But, you know, what it comes down to is, no one is safe over there.”

Thomas was just a few credits shy of his bachelor’s degree and was working toward becoming a warrant officer. His deployment in Iraq was scheduled to end in July.

He and Carrie were planning on buying a house. Until then, she was living with her parents in Nittany.

“I was so busy in my life, so busy,” Carrie said of their plans. “I worked 40 hours a week and then some, took care of Alexa, talked to Sean all the time, looked for houses, was getting his stuff all gathered up, arranging for direct deposit for him, and now it’s like, now what? I don’t know what to do. I feel like I have nothing now. I’ve never felt so alone. I have so much family, but I’m just filled with emptiness. I don’t think you can describe the pain. You just can’t.”

An employee of Health South in Pleasant Gap, Carrie is also a sergeant in the Army National Guard. Two years ago she was deployed to the Middle East, where the couple first met.

“The military was what brought us together,” Carrie said, “And it was also took us apart.”

On the refrigerator in the family’s kitchen is a photo of Carrie in full military gear, almost unrecognizable in a heavy helmet and body armor.

“We became friends in ’05 when we both were serving in Afghanistan,” Carrie said. “We both worked in the same supply office. But we stayed very professional.”

They loved to just sit and talk, Carrie said, and they shared similar opinions and religious beliefs. Soon romance began to bloom. Back home in the United States, over Thanksgiving, Sean proposed.

“He asked me to marry him in front of my whole family,” Carrie said. “My sister and Mom and Dad and my friends were there. He had to ask my Dad for permission first. ... We get together every Sunday for dinner, that’s a tradition, and this time at Thanksgiving he was so nervous. He asked to say the prayer, and after he said the prayer he went down on one knee and said how thankful he was for everything, and how happy he was.

“Tears were welling in his eyes, and he always tried not to cry,” she added, dabbing at her own tears. “And then he asked me to marry him and I said yes and everyone was so surprised and happy. We were going to get married in June but we moved it to April because of his deployment.”

They were married at Howard Christian Church, the same house of worship where Carrie’s parents had been wed more than 30 years earlier.

Alexa was born in September, and Sean arranged for a two-week leave to be home for her birth.

The couple had all sorts of plans once Sean came home for good. They wanted to go on a cruise, visit family and friends and visit the Centre County Grange Fair, a longtime tradition in Carrie’s family.

“I kept thinking of him at the Grange Fair, pushing Alexa in a buggy with me at his side, just doing things together as a couple with our child, a perfect little family. I was so looking forward to going there and showing everyone my husband and daughter. ...

“He loved Lex so much,” she continued. “He just wanted to take care of her and make sure she had a great life and was happy.”

From the Gazette