Thursday, December 02, 2010

Army Sgt. 1st Class James E. Thode

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. 1st Class James E. Thode, 45, of Kirtland, N.M

SFC Thode was assigned to 1457th Engineer Battalion, 204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Utah National Guard, Salt Lake City; died Dec. 2, 2010 in Sabari district, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device.

Thode, 45, was a graduate of Catalina High School and the University of Arizona. Born in Show Low, he moved to Tucson when he was six years old.

Thode was assigned to the 1457th Engineer Battalion, 204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Thode lived in Kirtland, N.M., since graduating from the UA. Thode had served as an officer in the Farmington, N.M., police department for 14 years. Thode was on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. was also deployed to Iraq in 2003. Thode is the 50th member of the military with Southern Arizona ties to die in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The last time he was in Tucson was just before his deployment for a visit with his father, sister and some high school friends.

The deployment was the third for Thode, who in 1991 served in Desert Storm but did not see combat. In 2003, he served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"He was a big, quiet man at 6-2, and 240 pounds, but he was a warrior," Ernest Thode said of his son. "He felt it was his job to straighten out the problems of the world."

That attitude is what led to Thode also serving on New Mexico's Farmington Police Department for the last 14 years. In that time he worked as a training officer, a member of the SWAT team and most recently as a sergeant.

"He was just one of those guys," Farmington Police Lt. Daryl Noon said. "He was well-respected. He was a great friend. He was a great leader. He had all those qualities that you would look for in someone."

Thode was nearly halfway through his deployment when he died. He was scheduled to go home for leave in February, his father said.

Ernest Thode learned of his son's death on Thursday. He was returning to his home when he saw two big men waiting out front. Initially he thought his son had returned early for leave. "I thought it was Jim," Ernest Thode said. "But then I saw the dress blues, and Jim doesn't wear those. It was a chaplain, and I knew then before he could even say a word."

On Saturday, Ernest Thode recalled his son's passion for the military from an early age. He was inspired by his uncle who served in the military and was a marksman. "As a kid, Jim learned to shoot a BB gun accurately," his father said. "He shot that until we finally took him to the range, and then he learned how to handle a rifle."

Thode joined the military in 1984 and had already racked up enough service time to retire by the time he went on his third, and final, deployment, his father said.

"I told him he could've retired, but he insisted that these young kids needed someone to take them to war and help keep things together," Ernest Thode said. "He never wanted to take a lot of credit for what he did."

Thode likely would have preferred to be remembered as a family man who loved the outdoors, rather than a hero, his father said.

Funeral services will be held in Farmington in the next week or two, Ernest Thode said.

"We're deeply saddened by the death of Sgt. 1st Class James Thode in Afghanistan," said Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet, the adjutant general of the Utah National Guard. "It's a terrible loss for his family, the soldiers of the 118th Sapper Company and the Utah National Guard."

He is survived by his wife Carlotta, 18-year-old daughter Ashley and 8-year-old son Tommy. Thode is also survived by his mother, Evelyn, his father Ernest, and his sister Mary Ann.

Army Sgt. 1st Class James E. Thode was killed in action on 12/02/10.

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