- NATO Kosovo Force
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Operation Freedom’s Sentinel
- Operation Inherent Resolve
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Operation New Dawn
- Operation Odyssey Lightning
- Operation Spartan Shield
- U.S. Africa Command Operations
- U.S. Central Command operations
- The People Behind The Sacrifice
Marine Sgt. Thomas E. Houser
Died January 3, 2005 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom
22, of Council Bluffs, Iowa; assigned to 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; killed Jan. 3 by enemy action in Anbar province, Iraq.
Council Bluffs Marine killed in Iraq
By Mike Wilson
DES MOINES, Iowa — An Iowa Marine killed in Iraq was remembered Tuesday as a man who would put a smile on anyone’s face.
Sgt. Thomas Houser, 22, of Council Bluffs, was killed in action near Fallujah, his stepdad Larry Ward said.
Ward said he and Houser’s mother, Mary Ellen Ward, learned of Thomas’ death when two Marines rang their doorbell at 12:15 a.m. Tuesday.
“It’s hard ... you don’t even want to think about it but you know it’s happened,” Larry Ward said.
He said he and his wife looked out the window when the doorbell rang.
“When we saw the Marines, we knew what had happened,” Ward said, his voice breaking with emotion.
He said his wife sensed something was wrong because they hadn’t heard from Thomas since last month.
“My wife is the one that ... the mothers are always the one ... they seem to sense it, they seem to know, the moment I opened the door ...” Ward said, his voice trailing off.
The Wards were not alone in their grief Tuesday. Their home was filled with more than 20 friends and former classmates of Thomas, a member of the 2nd Force Reconnaissance, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Ward said Thomas, a 2000 graduate of St. Albert’s Catholic High School in Council Bluffs, played football and was on the St. Albert’s team that went to the state playoffs in 2000. He also wrestled and competed in track, Larry Ward said.
He was last home for a brief 4-day visit in August, Ward said.
During that time he visited with family and friends.
“He didn’t have much time because he had to go back to Iraq,” Ward said.
Thomas Houser enjoyed having fun, Ward said.
“He enjoyed life,” Ward said. “He’d put a smile on your face.”
Jonna Andersen, principal at St. Albert’s, remembered Houser as being “a very nice young man.”
“He always wanted to be in the military and wanted to be a Marine,” Andersen said. “That was his dream.”
She remembered times when Houser would visit the school wearing his uniform.
“He would stop here whenever he was home and talk to the kids about what he was doing,” Andersen said.
She said the family has been offered the use of the school for Houser’s funeral.
“It’s pretty sad around here today,” she said Tuesday. “For all the people that did know him, it’s been tough.”
Houser’s family has a long history of military service, Ward said.
His grandfather retired from the military, his father, John Houser, of Council Bluffs, was in the Marine Reserve.
A brother is a Marine and a stepbrother also served in the military, said Ward, who said he served in the Navy.
Houser also is survived by three stepsisters.
His spiritual faith was important to Houser, the Rev. Phil Hobt said.
“He had a whole dimension to him, a religious side that was asking about God and where God is in his life and trying to get a sense for that,” said Hobt, a theology teacher at St. Albert’s.
Deb McGuire, an art teacher at St. Albert’s, said he last spoke to Houser in an hour-long phone call between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“When I was talking to him he said ‘The hardest thing for me is sometimes the people I eat supper with, I don’t see the next day.’ I guess that’s when the fear comes in.
“I just wanted him to come home.”
Fallen Marine’s brother to serve in Iraq
DES MOINES, Iowa — The older brother of an Iowa Marine killed in Iraq is scheduled to go to the Middle East next spring.
Sgt. Thomas Houser, 22, of Council Bluffs, was killed by enemy fire on Monday near Fallujah, the Department of Defense said. Few other details about his death were released.
Houser’s brother, Joe, also a Marine, is to go to Iraq in March.
Their mother, Mary Ellen Ward, said she wasn’t thinking about her own pain when she received a call from Gov. Tom Vilsack on Wednesday, offering his condolences for Thomas Houser’s death.
Ward said she asked Vilsack to pray for his brother as he heads to Iraq.
“I said, ‘Could you do me a favor?”’ she said. “I said, ‘Pray for his brother. They were the best of friends.”’
Thomas Houser, a member of the 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company, assigned to work with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, was killed by enemy fire in Iraq’s Anbar province, said the military public affairs office.
“There are very few of them, and they are very valuable,” said Maj. Matt Morgan. “They are a highly skilled, specialized unit that conducts ground combat operations.”
Houser enlisted in the Marines shortly after graduating in 2000 from St. Albert’s Catholic High School in Council Bluffs.
Ward said she has learned to accept her sons’ decisions about military service.
“I wish I could still have that control sometimes,” she said.
Ward said she will not pressure Joe to leave the military.
The military does not prohibit siblings from serving simultaneously, and assignments do not change if one is killed, said Jim Turner, a Defense Department spokesman.
“These people who go into the military want to serve,” Turner said. “Just because his brother died, which is deeply regrettable, is that a reason to tell someone, “You can’t serve your country?”’
Iowa community mourns slain Marine
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — An Iowa Marine killed in Iraq was remembered Wednesday as a young man with a sense of spirit, sense of duty and a sense of humor.
Sgt. Thomas Eugene Houser, 22, of Council Bluffs, was someone who “could brighten a room with his presence,” said the Rev. Phil Hobt, a theology teacher at St. Albert’s Catholic School.
“Wherever Tom was, there was something fun going on,” Hobt said.
About 1,000 people attended a funeral Mass at the Mid-American Center for Houser, who was killed Jan. 3 by enemy fire in Iraq’s Anbar province.
Houser was a member of the 2nd Force Reconnaissance, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Military officials have disclosed few details about his death.
Hobt remembered Houser as an inquisitive student.
“It always made me nervous when Tom would raise his hand. I never knew what he would say,” Hobt said.
Hobt said Houser was committed to his family, his job as a Marine and his faith. He said he and Houser exchanged e-mails in December in which Houser asked about the Catholic faith.
“Tom was still searching and growing in his faith,” Hobt said.
In an emotional tribute, Houser’s older brother, Joe, talked about their relationship.
“Tim was the other half of me and the past few days I felt that part was gone. But I realized he will always be with me,” Joe Houser said, occasionally sniffling.
“As a big brother, I always watched over him. Now it’s his turn to watch over me,” he said.
Joe Houser, also a Marine, leaves for Iraq in March.
The lights dimmed as a slideshow played, the arena illuminated by photos of Houser throughout his life. The songs “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” and “Proud to be an American” played in the background.
Houser’s mother, Mary Ellen Ward, was presented with his Purple Heart medal during the ceremony. As the medal was presented, other Marines in attendance stood at attention.
A bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” as the casket was loaded into a hearse, which pulled away beneath a U.S. flag suspended between the ladders of two fire trucks.
Joe Houser, in closing his tribute, said he hopes to see his brother again someday.
“Semper Fi... God bless you. I’ll see you later, little brother,” he said.
— Associated Press