- [S106] The Mountain Press, 23 Mar 2005.
In a telephone call Saturday, 10-year-old Megan Thomason said she had told her daddy, "I love you, I miss you and I can't wait to talk to you again."
On Monday, looking dazed and exhausted as she sat beside her grandmother, Megan related how she had learned Sunday evening that she would never talk to her 37-year-old daddy again - SPC Paul William Thomason III had been killed in near Tikrit, Iraq.
A specialist with G Troop of the 2/278th Armored Cavalry Regiment of the Army National Guard unit from Greeneville, Thomason was a lifelong resident of Sevier County and a 1986 graduate of Sevier County High School.
Thomason's mother and stepfather, Gayle and Roger Thomas reside at New Center and his father Paul William Thomason II is a Sevierville resident. The soldier moved his family to the Jefferson City area just 13 months ago to be closer to his new job in Morristown.
Also survived by his wife Amanda, two other daughters, Piper, 7, and Cora Mae, 2, and a son, Asher, 4, Thomason had joined the Army National Guard in March of 2004.
Details are still sketchy, but according to his mother and stepfather, Thomason may have died when the 10-ton truck in which he and three other soldiers were riding ran over two 200-pound bombs buried in the road and detonated by a remote control. Information is not available about the other soldiers' conditions.
His mother said that since being deployed to Iraq last November, Thomason had been located at Camp Bernstein in Kirkuk, but just three weeks ago, he was moved to Tikrit to serve as driver of one of the trucks escorting convoys of vehicles to town twice a week.
Last weekend was Thomason's second weekend of escorting the convoy.
"He would call his wife and me after he got back off the convoy," said Thomas. "I had talked with Amanda Sunday morning. I knew things were going on in Kirkuk and Mosul and we thought maybe they had shut the phones down because they do that sometimes.
"We never got that call," she said.
Thomas continued that because she was upset and worried, she went to see her daughter in Maryville Sunday, "It was 3:30 here and midnight in Iraq. ... He had never completely made this journey to where he was supposed to be going. I knew something was wrong."
Thomas' daughter-in-law reached her in Maryville about 6 p.m. to tell her the military had come to notify her of Thomason's death.
"If I can get to see him, just to know. Right now I can't comprehend this - it's just not real," said Thomas. "I got a card from him Saturday; it's the first one since he's been in Tikrit."
Roger Thomas said his stepson had enlisted in the Air Force in 1986 and joined the Army National Guard last year because "he wanted to further his education so he could take better care of his family. He thought he wouldn't be deployed."
Megan recalled the day her father left for training, "He left June 20, 2004 - it was Father's Day. That's a really bad thing. ... I wrote a letter to him last week at school. He sent my class and Piper's class letters."
As she talked about her son's death, Thomas said he had quickly adjusted to the fact that he was being deployed and said, "He didn't want terrorists over here bothering his family - he was proud of serving his country."
According to his stepfather, Thomason was a hard worker who was always smiling and upbeat, which earned him the nickname "Smiley."
Said his stepfather, "He would do anything for anybody - he was a good boy."
Ironically, both Thomason's mother and stepfather said they felt from the beginning that he would not return home.
"I knew," said his mother. "I gave him his Bible to take with him, I sent him things about his protector. I prayed for him every night and the last thing I did before going to sleep was kiss that picture beside my bed."
Remembering the last conversation she and her sisters and brother had with her father on Saturday, Megan said, "Daddy told me he loved me and he wanted me to do good in school - he wanted me to do really good."
Family remembers loved one killed in Iraq
- [S27] The Daily Times, http://www.thedailytimes.com/, (Blount County, Tennessee), 23 Mar 2005.
Maryville woman's husband tried to save fallen 278th soldier
by Thomas Fraser
of The Daily Times Staff
The husband of a Maryville woman struggled to save the life of a 278th Regimental Combat Team member mortally injured in an attack on a convoy Sunday near Tikrit, Iraq.
Spc. David Orlandini, a 278th medic who was also wounded in the insurgent attack, did everything he could to save Paul Thomason III of Talbott, his wife, Katie Orlandini, said Tuesday.
``It was his friend,'' said Katie Orlandini, who spoke with her husband by telephone after the incident. ``He was very upset because he was a medic and couldn't help him.''
She had a message for Thomason's family.
``I just want them to know my husband did all he could do to make sure he came home.''
Orlandini and Thomason were riding in the same vehicle when what the military refers to as an ``improvised explosive device'' detonated underneath their heavy truck as their convoy passed.
``It went off and threw them all around, and he got up and checked on everybody and tried to help Mr. Thomason,'' Katie Orlandini said.
The convoy then came under small-arms fire, she said, and her husband continued his medical efforts. They were to no avail.
``He's very upset with himself,'' she said. ``At least'' four others were wounded in the attack, she said.
Her husband suffered a broken ankle, bruises and abrasions in the attack, she said, and is being treated at a military hospital in Germany. He will leave Germany Friday, be back in the United States Saturday and will receive additional medical treatment at an American military hospital.
David Orlandini, 29, joined the National Guard in August 2002, she said. He is attached to E Troop, 2nd Squadron, based in Kingsport. The family, which includes three children, are natives of Chicago, but moved to Etowah seven years ago.
Katie Orlandini and the three children moved to Maryville shortly after David Orlandini's activation in September, she said.
The children, of course, look forward to seeing their father.
``They heard he was coming home and you couldn't have made their faces any bigger for their smiles,'' she said. ``They were very upset to hear he's been hurt, but are very glad he's coming home,'' the 28-year-old woman said of her husband of 10 years.
She said she doesn't know her husband's military future, only saying that he will stay home as long as necessary to recuperate.
She plans to continue collecting clothing, toys and shoes for shipment to Iraqi children, a project she began at the request of her husband following his deployment to Iraq.
``My husband would want me to continue doing it,'' she said. ``Just because he's coming home doesn't mean we need to forget about them.''
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 24 Mar 2005.
Slain soldier enjoyed the military, friends recall
Sense of humor will not be forgotten
Norma Luttrell, a marketing teacher at SCHS, looks through a 1986 school yearbook as she reminisces about having Paul William Thomason III as a student.
Shock over the death of SPC Paul William Thomason III, 37, who was killed Sunday in Iraq, has turned to intense grief for those who knew and loved him.
A Sevier County native and a graduate of Sevier County High School, Thomason was know by many in the community.
Norma Luttrell, a marketing teacher at Sevier County High School who Thomason often contacted over the years, was unable to keep her emotions in check Tuesday.
"Paul is one of those students who kept in touch over the years. We've had our trials and tribulations together, but he was like my son," she said.
Luttrell first met Thomason in the fall of 1984, before he became one of her students in the fall of 1985. "I feel like I am fortunate to have met Paul," she recalled. "He was a wonderful marketing student - a very, very bright young man. Although electronics seemed to be his interest at that time, I thought he was college material."
Luttrell said Thomason joined the Air Force soon after graduating, in an effort to get a college education. She remembers a time when he was home from the Air Force and stopped by to see her in his dress blues, and said, "I was so very proud of him."
Although Thomason left the Air Force and returned home to start a family, Luttrell said she didn't think he was happy in the other things he was doing. "He enjoyed the military and I think that is what he wanted to do in his career all along."
Luttrell also remembered that Thomason was "mischievous - but always a very, very polite young man. I just can't believe this has happened."
Thomason, his wife Amanda and their four children had moved to the Jefferson City area just last year after he was hired at AmPad in Morristown.
While AmPad Human Resources Manager Carolyn Clark had not had the opportunity to get to know Thomason before he was deployed, she said, "I can tell you everybody here is very upset. Our main focus is 'how do we help the family.' He had four beautiful children and the ones that knew him are focused on pulling together to try to help Amanda and the children."
As a worker, Clark said, Thomason was "a good employee and one thing I can tell you is that as a company, this is very difficult news to hear."
Clark said that while she was just starting her job when Thomason was deployed, employees that knew him said going into the military was something Thomason wanted to do.
"He felt compelled to join the National Guard because he felt it was something he needed to do for our country," she said. "We have a great deal of pride in him for that, and in fighting for our freedom.
"His death is definitely a loss here to us and the company."
Many people mentioned Thomason's sense of humor, including Bill Yarberry in the Sevier County Courthouse maintenance department.
"Paul had worked for the electrical contractor that worked on the new jail and that's how I got to know him. That, and, I had worked with his mom Gayle when she was a jailer at the jail," he said. "He was a delight to be around. He was funny, always having a good time - just a delightful person to be around."
Rene Child, chairwoman of the 2/278th Family Readiness Group at the Army National Guard base in Pigeon Forge and a close friend of Thomason's mother Gayle Thomas, said the readiness group will do all it can for the Thomases.
"Gayle and Roger are wonderful people and we'll be there for them. ... It's a real tragedy," Child said.
- [S23] Atchley Funeral Home, (http://www.atchleyfuneralhome.com/), 20 Mar 2005.
Sgt. Paul William Thomason, III
October 21, 1967 - March 20, 2005
Birthplace: Albany, Georgia
Resided In: Sevierville Tennessee USA
Visitation: March 30, 2005
Service: March 31, 2005
Cemetery: Knob Creek Cemetery
Sgt. Paul William Thomason III, age 37, of Jefferson City, Tennessee, member of the 2nd Squadron 278 ACR Tenn. National Guard, died in combat due to enemy action near the town of Kirkuk, Iraq, on Sunday, March 20, 2005.
He was a 1986 graduate of Sevier County High School and was employed by Ampad in Morristown, Tennessee. Sgt. Thomason was preceded in death by his grandmother and grandfather Lucille and Floyd Lewis, and grandfathers SSGT Paul W. Thomason Sr. (Ret.), Charles Hodges, James Graves, and brother-in-law, Travis Breeden
Wife: Amanda Thomason
Son: Asher Crockett
Daughters: Megan Leigh, Piper Moranda, and Cora Mae
Mother and stepfather: Gayle and Roger Thomas
Father and stepmother: Paul and Roberta Thomason Jr.
Grandmother: Lucy Hurst
Brother and wife: Jason and Amy Thomason
Sisters: Christal Breeden and April Gibson and fiancée Raif Badawi
Stepbrother: Josh Williams
Stepsister: Stephanie Hoyle
Mother-in-law: Patty Moran
Father-in-law and wife: Jerry and Donna Latham
Special aunts and uncles: Benny and Patty Gann, Johnny and Doris Thomason, Jimmy and Wanda Graves, Wayne Graves, Ruby Flynn
Special friends: Preston Cox, Stacy Daughman, Kenny Hardwick
Many special nieces, nephews, and cousins
Funeral service 2 PM Thursday at First Baptist Church in Sevierville. Rev. Curtis Wells and Rev. Benny Gann officiating. Interment will follow in Knob Creek Cemetery with military honors. The family will receive friends 5-9 PM Wednesday at First Baptist Church in Sevierville. Arrangements by Atchley Funeral Home, Sevierville. (www.atchleyfuneralhome.com)
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 17 Apr 2005.
SEVIERVILLE - Sgt. Paul William Thomason III, who was killed in Iraq on March 20, was honored Monday beneath the U.S. flag that flies in front of his alma mater.
Bob Parker, president of the national non-profit organization Fallen Friend, dedicated a sign at Sevier County High School to honor the sacrifice of Thomason and remember the deaths of all American soldiers who have given their lives in the name of freedom.
"The cost of freedom is not free," said Parker as Thomason's family stood by. "It comes with a terrible price."
Fallen Friend also gave a medallion to Thomason's widow, Amanda, which reads, "Liberty Rings For All Nations. United We Stand Divided We Fall." The organization has dedicated similar signs at other schools in East Tennessee.
The sign was sponsored by Larry Hill Pontiac on Dolly Parton Parkway in Sevierville.
According to Principal Gary Roach, Sevier County High School agriculture students have been beautifying the area around the school's flagpole where a permanent marker will be placed in front of a tree in honor of Thomason's sacrifice.
Thomason, 37, was the first member of the U.S. National Guard's 278th Regimental Combat Team to die in combat when his military vehicle hit an explosive device near Tikrit. He left behind a wife and four young children.
"We take it day by day," said Amanda Thomason Monday. "We all do."
She and the whole family thanked everyone for their prayers and support.
Thomason's mother, Gayle Thomas, asked everyone to continue to remember the family in prayer and remember the soldier still serving.
"Even though we lost Paul, we've got to support these guys," said Thomas.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 10 Sep 2006.
Memorial service planned for fallen soldier from 278th
By: DEREK HODGES
Staff Writer September 10, 2006
Almost a year and a half after Sgt. Paul William Thomason III was killed while serving his country in Iraq, his service unit is working to ensure his memory is kept alive.
The National Guard's 278th Regimental Combat Team, of which Thomason was the first to die in combat when his military vehicle hit an explosive device near Tikrit, Iraq, will dedicate a memorial to Thomason at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Greeneville armory.
"We feel like this is an important thing to do to remember those who gave all from the 278th," Sgt. Gary Hensley said.
The memorial itself will be a marker bearing Thomason's name. The service dedicating it will include a 21-gun salute and a playing of the song Taps.
Thomason, who was 37 at the time of his death, was raised in Sevier County, though he was living in Jefferson City with his wife, Amanda, and their four children. He was a 1986 graduate of Sevier County High School.
"Paul was a Sevier Countian," Thomason's mother Gayle Thomas said. "He was always proud of his hometown. This is where he lived and this is where he is now resting. I go out and keep his cemetery up. I take flowers and I sit there. Sometime's it's like it just happened yesterday."
Thomason's family has seen an outpouring of support from local residents and state officials.
"I really want to thank our community," Thomas said. "I could not say enough for Sevier County and everyone that has been so supportive of Paul and all our soldiers."
For Thomas, events like the one planned for Saturday aren't easy.
"It's hard to go to the memorials, but it still touches me to know that people still care," Thomas said. "It opens the wounds, but I always want to go to them for my son. We don't want people to forget about any of the soldiers who have died, but it's hard on the moms and dads. Nobody can comprehend it unless they have been there. As long as I'm alive, they will remember my hero - my son."
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 2 Apr 2005.
Fallen soldier laid to rest
Community shows support for family
By: CANDICE GRIMM, Staff Writer April 02, 2005
Photo by Curt Habraken
An American flag is presented to Amanda Thomason, Sgt. Thomason's wife, and her children during the graveside service.
Standing behind the flag-draped coffin bearing the body of her husband Sgt. Paul W. Thomason III, Amanda Thomason, of Jefferson City, wept as she read a poem titled, "When Tomorrow Starts Without Me" during his funeral Thursday in First Baptist Church at Sevierville.
She stood proud and strong, however, as she read "Freedom Is Not Free," a second poem she said she had received in the mail only a few days ago.
But as proud as Thomason's family is of the honor that goes with having died fighting the war in Iraq, it is clear they cannot help but struggle with the loss of a 37-year-old father of four young children, Megan, Piper, Asher and Cora; a husband of only four years; and a son who was so loving, kind and generous.
After listening to the words of those who eulogized the first member of the Army National Guard's 2/278th Armored Cavalry Regiment to die in Iraq, it was the military honors given to his family in a touching ceremony that brought an outpouring of grief.
Thomason's Bronze Star for Meritorious Service, Purple Heart, Good Conduct, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary, Global War on Terrorism Service and the Tennessee Guard Distinguished Service medals will no doubt be cherished by his family for years to come.
He was promoted to the rank of sergeant after his death.
According to Rene Child, chairwoman of the 2/278th Family Readiness Group at the Army National Guard base in Pigeon Forge and a close friend of Thomason's mother Gayle Thomas, the support of everyone in the community has meant a great deal to the family.
She noted especially that Sevier County's residents paid their respects by lining the streets along the route Thomason's body traveled to Knob Creek Cemetery near Seymour.
Holding American flags, or holding hands over their hearts, Child said the dozens of people along the route gave a touching tribute that deeply touched Thomason's family.
"The emotions I'm feeling right now are overwhelming," Child said. "It's so wonderful of the community to come together during this time of loss."
Child said it also meant much to Thomason's family and to her personally that members of other Family Readiness Groups and military families also came to pay their respects to Thomason.
Thomason, who was killed March 20 near Kirkuk, was laid to rest with a 21-gun salute and the sound of "Taps" played from a hill overlooking his grave.
Thomason was 1986 graduate of Sevier County High School.