A 31-year-old soldier killed this week in Afghanistan grew up in Minnesota and his parents are well-known in the Marshall area, where his father is a professor at Southwest Minnesota State University and his mother heads a local nonprofit.
Staff Sgt. Adam Thomas, 31, died Tuesday in Nangarhar Province from injuries caused by a bomb that exploded during dismounted operations, according to the Department of Defense. Thomas, a Green Beret who had two previous deployments to Afghanistan and one to Iraq, was partnered with Afghan forces when he was killed.
His father, Will Thomas, who teaches accounting at the university, declined to talk on Thursday when contacted by a reporter, and referred inquiries to the Army. But a spokesman for the university confirmed that the dean of the College of Business, Education, and Professional Studies spoke with him about traveling to Dover Air Force Base to retrieve his son's remains. The family was traveling from Colorado Thursday night.
A release from Fort Carson, where Thomas was stationed, listed his home as Takoma Park, Md., and indicated he had been in the military for 8 ½ years. He was listed as a Special Forces medical sergeant with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
Thomas attended elementary school in the St. Peter area, while his father taught at Gustavus Adolphus College. Candace Thomas is the executive director of the nonprofit Literacy Volunteers of Southwest Minnesota, which provides tutoring and advocacy to promote literacy, particularly with immigrants and refugees. Will Thomas is also a tutor and treasurer with the group.
"This is an extraordinary family who dedicate countless hours to community service in our town," said Richard Herder, chairman of the organization.
Adam Thomas entered the Army in April 2008, according to Fort Carson, and had deployed to Iraq in 2008 and to Afghanistan for two tours — one in 2011 and another in June.
Thomas was the recipient of a Bronze Star, Purple Heart, multiple Army Commendation medals and the National Defense Service Medal, among other accolades.