Without a doubt, Warrant Officer One Shawn Thomas was loved by all. He was described as a warrior by every single person that knew him, including me. He was a hardened Special Forces combat veteran with many tours of fighting our country’s adversaries.
WO1 Thomas died on February 2, 2017, from injuries suffered in a vehicle accident while serving in Niger, Africa.
“Our deepest condolences go out to Warrant Officer Thomas’ family, friends, and colleagues,” 3rd Special Forces Group officials had said in a statement.
Thomas and members of his unit were part of a contingent of soldiers, both civil affairs and Special Forces, deployed to central Africa to train local troops and support the local population in countering the spread of terrorist groups.
“SF teams are advising members of the Nigerien Armed Forces who are conducting counter-Boko Haram operations to bring stability to the Lake Chad Basin region,” said Sgt. 1st Class Victor Aguirre, a USASOC spokesman.
Thomas, 35, enlisted in July 2000 as a networking switching systems operator, according to his bio. He joined the Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based 3rd Special Forces Group in 2008 following the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course. He became a warrant officer in 2016.
Niger is a hub for special operations forces training partner nations in north and west Africa to counter militants and extremist groups, such as the Boko Haram group which is based in neighboring Nigeria.
Thomas’s homecoming was caught on camera by a passenger on a plane in Raleigh, North Carolina. They were told to wait, and let someone get off the plane first. They soon learned it was a fallen soldier, returning home for the last time.
The heartbreaking video showed the wife of Shawn Thomas, walk up slowly and place her hand on her husband’s casket. It was a moment that touched everyone on the plane. The Green Berets that took him off the plane, knew him well, had fought with him, and loved him. His wife was visibly crushed but always stoic.
“The people on the airplane stayed on until they unloaded Shawn and they said everyone on the plane had tears. Very touching,” David Thomas, Shawn’s father said.
David Thomas said his son had served four tours in Iraq and three in Afghanistan.
“It’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m very proud of him and I’m going to miss him,” David Thomas said.
The 3rd Group Commander, Colonel Moses, said he personally delivered Thomas to his unit in Niger days before Christmas in 2016.
“The world watched with a heavy heart when you were finally reunited with Tara,” he said, referring to a video taken of Thomas’s grieving widow as she greeted his flag-draped coffin shortly after his death.
Thomas’s awards and decorations include two Bronze Stars, four Good Conduct Medals, and various decorations for service abroad. He was posthumously awarded a Meritorious Service Medal and Army Commendation Medal for his work in Niger.
He is survived by his wife and children.