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Georgia Army National Guard Master Sgt. Thomas R. Thigpen Sr.

Died March 16, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

52, of Augusta, Ga.; assigned to the Army National Guard, 151st Signal Battalion, from Greenville, S.C.; died of non-combat related injuries, on March 16 in Camp Virginia, Kuwait.

Master Sgt. Thomas Thigpen was a dedicated soldier who always put his unit first. "He was true to his men," said his wife, Theresa. "He said he knew I'd suffered from him being over there, but he wouldn't have had it any other way. There was no way he would let his men go over there without him." Thigpen, 52, died March 16 at Camp Virginia, Kuwait. His wife said he died of either a massive heart attack or a stroke during a game of tag football. He was based in Greenville, S.C. Thigpen was deployed last spring. His family in Augusta, Ga., had expected him home in April. Theresa Thigpen had plans to surprise him with a Caribbean cruise. Before his unit was activated, Thigpen was a civilian worker at Fort Gordon, a budget analyst for the 15th Signal Brigade. He had planned to retire from the Guard last June after 20 years, but got called up. Survivors also include Thigpen's daughter and two granddaughters.

— Associated Press

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