Thursday, April 5, 2007

Warrior Dad Dies in Baghdad

I heard from one of my new correspondents in Baghdad, Lt. Matt Belfi (see my post on Matt - "Lieutenant Matt Belfi: Philly Cop & Warrior Pilot", a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard and a helicopter pilot. From his vantage point in Baghdad’s Green Zone at the U.S. Embassy, he wrote me about the tragic loss of a comrade on March 27th. Here is part of his email:

“The embassy has been getting attacked via IDF (indirect fire – mortars or rockets) lately and, unfortunately, last week’s attack resulted in a friend of mine getting killed. Sergeant First Class Sean Thomas (pictured above with his wife and child) was walking along when suddenly an enemy rocket exploded near him. A (civilian) contractor on location was also killed. Several were wounded also.

I was nearby and rendered medical aid to the wounded. Although I am not a medic, I was a civilian EMT for years (and Matt is a Philadelphia police officer now), so the basics are still with me. It’s interesting how quickly things change. It really reminds you that this is, in fact, a war zone - not that I needed that kind of reminder.

I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for soldiers such as you who experienced events such as this with regularity during the Vietnam War. I have thought about that a lot lately. It must have really been rough.

I know Sean’s death has taken a toll on me. It has taken a bigger toll on a friend of mine who was there rendering medical aid to Sean with me. Being a civilian “first responder” has helped me, but I think Jerry, my friend who was with me, is having a harder time dealing with the tragedy. He is also the type of person who keeps things bottled up as opposed to me, who is much more outward about my feelings (for better or worse)…”

I sent an email back to Matt:

“Matt: It never gets easier. When I first stood in front of the Vietnam Memorial and looked at the names of men I knew who had been killed, it was a sobering experience. Having been in Baghdad, I know firsthand about the IDF hazards there as well…

As a cop who has been in the first aid mode as both soldier and civilian, I am glad you were there. If your friend was aware of your presence, it surely comforted him.

Some day you will also stand before a memorial in Washington to the men and women who have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. You will stare at your friend’s name and you will remember all of it. Then you will take your loved ones in your arms and be grateful once again for all of the simple blessings of life.”

Matt’s friend was posthumously promoted to the rank of master sergeant and awarded the Purple Heart and Combat Action Badge. Sean Michael Thomas was from Walker Township in Pennsylvania and he is survived by his wife, Carrie, and daughter Alexa. The couple would have celebrated their anniversary on Easter Sunday. Master Sergeant Thomas previously served in Afghanistan where he was awarded a Bronze Star.

A memorial fund has been established in his daughter’s name. Anyone who would like to contribute to the Alexa Thomas Fund can make donations to the fund in care of Omega Bank, 2 South Main Street, Hughesville, Pennsylvania 17737.

SFC Chuck Grist


  1. Chuck, thanks. Sad but great story. Wes Brumback.

  2. Farewell, and Walk with God.
    We will ever remember what you have given for the rest of us.