Lincoln Park soldier killed in Syria knew early he wanted military career
In the southwest Detroit neighborhood where Pfc. Michael Thomason grew up, dozens of friends, relatives and supporters hoisted candles to the darkening sky Tuesday and shouted, "We love you Mikey!"
The vigil was a fitting tribute for the 28-year-old Lincoln Park soldier, who died a day earlier of wounds sustained in a noncombat incident in Syria, military officials said.
His sister, Amber Martinez, took comfort in the many mourners who braved chilly temperatures and heavy rain to honor his memory.
"It just shows how many lives he impacted," she said.
The Defense Department said Thomason died Monday in Kobani. Details of the incident weren’t immediately released.
Thomason was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
"His deployment to Syria in support of Operation Inherent Resolve was his first," said Lt. Col. Martin L. O'Donnell, a spokesman for the 101st Airborne Division, on Tuesday. "Pfc. Thomason's awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal with 'C' (or Combat) Device, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon and the Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal."
Thomason enlisted in December 2017 and was promoted to the rank of private first class in December 2018, O'Donnell said.
"He lived a warrior's life, and he died in the service of his country," said Col. Derek Thomson, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division commander. "Michael's memory will live on as part of the legacy of the 101st Airborne Division, as will our commitment to his family and to our mission."
During the vigil Tuesday, mourners donned shirts with a photo of the father of two and stood near a stop sign decorated with American flag balloons.
"He touched a lot of hearts," said Frederick Evans, who knew Thomason for more than 15 years and once lived nearby. "He was just lively, always happy."
Stephanie Wahl, a longtime family friend who considered Thomason a son, fought back tears as she recalled his pranks and jokes.
"He was a wonderful guy," she said. "He was amazing."
Her sister, Tiffany Wahl, noted that Thomason had been involved in the ROTC in high school and settled on a military career long ago.
"He was a hero to all of us," she said.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, said in a statement Tuesday that she wants to know more about how the soldier died.
“Michael Thomason wanted to serve his country, putting on his uniform to help people. His awards and decorations demonstrate his exemplary service and commitment to protecting our nation," she said. "We need to have a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding his death for the family, but all of the Downriver's and our nation mourn with them in Michael’s loss.”
Detroit News Staff Writer Charles E. Ramirez and the Associated Press contributed.