Thursday, July 07, 2011

Marine Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Dodds Dudley

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Dodds Dudley, 29, of Tega Cay, S.C.

SSgt Dudley was assigned to Marine Air Group 26, 2nd Marine Air Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Station New River, Jacksonville, N.C.; died July 7, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.

SSgt Dudley was a crew chief on a Marine helicopter that was hit by enemy fire.

SSgt Dudley, known as "TJ" or "Duds", was born in Rochester, N.Y. and moved to Tega Cay as a boy with his family. The family then later moved to Fort Mill. He graduated from Fort Mill High School in 2000, where he played football his freshman year before becoming involved in the school's JROTC and drill team. He also volunteered with the Tega Cay Rescue Squad as a teen.

SSgt Dudley enlisted in the Marines when he was 18. While stationed in Jacksonville, he served honorably at the Haws Run Volunteeer Fire House. He had previously served twice in Okinawa, Japan and had deployed twice to Iraq. This was his second deployment to Afghanistan.

His younger sister recently signed on with the Navy. His younger brother, Jameson, also a Marine, said he remembers the time his older brother pulled his tooth out.

"I made the mistake of saying my tooth was loose," said Jameson. "Then he said, 'Come here,' and pulled it right out."

"He was the finest Marine," Jameson said. "He was not only a brother-in-arms, but a brother. And I miss him very much."

SSgt Dudley's email to his wife, Mary, on Wednesday night was simple: "I love you."

"I had told him he didn't have to email much, just say, 'I love you,' and let me know he was OK or just an exclamation mark," Mary said. She couldn't sleep that night, so at about 1 a.m. Thursday, she began to email her husband, pictures of their three children - Taylor, 13, Thomas Carter, 5, and Jenna Robyn, almost 2.

SSgt Dudley was scheduled to return home in two weeks, with plans for a family vacation in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., a birthday celebration for Jenna at a water park and possibly a trip to Las Vegas with his wife.

The mayors of both Fort Mill and Tega Cay have expressed their condolences to the Dudley family and are planning memorials to honor the Marine, including a brick in the new Veterans Park.

SSgt. Dudley's body arrived at Dover Air Force Base on Saturday. He arrived yesterday, Wednesday, July 13, in NC and was escorted to Fort Mill. Friends and family later gathered to honor the fallen Marine at the Palmetto Funeral Home.

SSgt Dudley is survived by his parents, Robyn and Thomas; wife, Mary, daughters Taylor and Jenna, son, Carter and thirteen brothers and sisters.

Marine Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Dodds Dudley was killed in action on 7/7/11.

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