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Army Sgt. Paul W. Thomason III

Died March 20, 2005 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

37, of Talbot, Tenn.; assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 278th Regimental Combat Team, Tennessee Army National Guard, Greeneville, Tenn.; killed March 20 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Kirkuk, Iraq.

Tennessee Guardsman killed in Iraq

Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — An attack on a convoy in Iraq killed a member of the National Guard’s 278th Regimental Combat Team, the first combat fatality for the unit that arrived there three months ago.

The Tennessee National Guard in a Monday statement said Spc. Paul William Thomason III of Talbot, near Jefferson City, was killed in Kirkuk on Sunday, “when his military vehicle hit an improvised explosive device.”

Thomason, 37, was a member of Troop G, 2nd Squadron, based in Greenville.

Survivors include his widow, Amanda, and four children. He was a lifelong resident of Sevier County and a 1986 graduate of Sevier County High.

“He’s my hero. He was my best friend. We did everything together,” Amanda Thomason said in a telephone interview Monday. “We celebrated five years on the 18th and he passed on the 20th.”

She said her husband “was in personnel” with the unit and was recently relocated to do a twice-weekly convoy.

“They didn’t even tell me the town,” she said. “All they told me was there was an explosion and he unfortunately didn’t make it.”

More than 3,200 soldiers in the 278th are Tennessee Army National Guard members.

Amanda Thomason said she and the children — ages 10, 7, 4 and 2 — spoke to him by telephone on Saturday, the day before he died.

“He got to talk to the kids and tell the kids how much he loved them and how much he missed them and that he would see them in seven months,” she said.

“The 10-year-old asked to go home with her grandmother last night. I’ve got the other three here,” she said.

She said she told her 4-year-old son that his daddy is “in heaven with Jesus, watching over us. He is an angel.”

Amanda Thomason said her husband left home with the 278th to begin training on Father’s Day last year.

Before his deployment to Iraq, Thomason worked in the warehouse at a Morristown envelope factory.

While the unit’s name and military role have changed many times, the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment traces its history to before the American Revolution, when militias formed throughout Northeast Tennessee to protect settlers from Creek and Cherokee Indian raids.

The Iraq mission marked the first time the full regiment had been deployed since the Korean War.

Community honors fallen Tennessee soldier

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. — Sgt. Paul Thomason III, the first member of the Tennessee National Guard’s 278th Regimental Combat Team killed in Iraq, was buried Thursday with full military honors.

About 200 people attended the ceremony at First Baptist Church, where widow Amanda Thomason read two poems, “When Tomorrow Starts Without Me” and “Freedom Is Not Free.”

Thomason’s flag-draped casket was taken to Knob Creek Cemetery in Seymour. Traffic came to a stop and dozens of residents held American flags or covered their hearts as the procession passed.

“The emotions I’m feeling right now are overwhelming,” said family friend Rene Child, who also is chairwoman of the 278th Family Readiness Group at the Tennessee Army National Guard base in Pigeon Forge. “It’s wonderful of the community to come together during this time of loss.”

Guardsmen acted as pallbearers. There was a 21-gun salute, the presenting of medals — including the Bronze Star — to the family and the playing of ‘Taps’ from a hill overlooking the grave.

“He joins a very exclusive group of patriots that have actually paid the ultimate sacrifice for us,” said U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who attended the service. “And that is the only way we can guarantee freedom.”

Thomason, a 37-year-old father of four, was killed March 20 in Kirkuk, Iraq, when his military vehicle hit a roadside bomb. He was a member of Troop G, 2nd Squadron, 278th Regimental Combat Team in Greeneville.

He was promoted posthumously from specialist to sergeant.

A lifelong resident of Sevier County and a 1986 graduate of Sevier County High School, Thomason worked in the warehouse of a Morristown envelope factory before his deployment. His 3,200-soldier, Knoxville-based National Guard regiment began a yearlong tour in Iraq shortly before Christmas.

“The people of East Tennessee are so wonderful,” the soldier’s father, Paul Thomason, said during visitation on Wednesday. “The outpouring of sympathy, the tears, the grief that they’ve shared with us, I just couldn’t express enough for the whole family how much we appreciate everyone.”

— Associated Press

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