His name is Jerry Lynn Thomas. He was born Sept. 15, 1950, to Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Thomas. He served in the US Army in the Vietnam War. His father served in World War II. Jerry lived in Lima and for a time in Lafayette where he gained the love of many people there who to this day get a tear in their eyes when they contemplate the loss of their dear friend.
Thomas was very concerned about going to Vietnam, but once called, he exhibited the utmost bravery. One person reported he was afraid he would be forgotten. Our sense is he did not think so much about himself as he did others. In any case, he has not been forgotten and through our efforts, and now The Lima News Salute to Veterans publication, thousands of people from across the entire country and around the globe who had no previous knowledge of his existence are aware of his sacrifice.
He clearly had a sense of our accountability to God. In a letter to one of his friends he wrote, “Like it says in the Bible. This isn’t a direct quote, but it’s the same meaning just in my words, Instead of trying to build up money, clothes, fancy houses, you should just live to make yourself ready to live in God’s place. … Just seems like the world would be better off if men and women would devote their lives to Christ as much as they would to gather riches and fame.”
He served in the Army with distinction. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor for selfless acts of bravery in Vietnam. The citation reads as follows.
For heroism in connection with military operations against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam: Specialist Four Thomas distinguished himself while serving as a personnel carrier driver for company C, 1st Battalion, (Mechanized), 61st Infantry during a sweep and clear operation near the Demilitarized Zone in northern Quang Tri Province.
The company was moving through a depression when a personnel carrier broke a track. The remainder of the company was maneuvering around the downed vehicle when they were viciously attacked by an estimated platoon of North Vietnamese Army Regulars utilizing small arms, rocket propelled grenades, and mortars. The exposed position of the disabled vehicle made repairs impossible and it was necessary to extract it from the contact area. With mortar rounds impacting in the immediate area, and his position raked by small arms fire, Specialist Thomas maneuvered his personnel carrier to a point where he could hook up a tow cable and return to his personnel carrier. Leaving the comparative safety of the drivers compartment, Specialist Thomas braved the incoming fire to hook up the cables and return to his personnel carrier. He then towed the vehicle to a protected position. Specialist Thomas’ courage under enemy fire was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army. FOR THE COMMANDER, T.H. Ross, Major, AGC, Adjutant General”
On June 7, 1971, the 1st platoon of Company C came under attack in the Quang Tri Province of South Vietnam. Jerry's platoon, the 3rd, was ordered to move in on the enemies' flank. It was during this assault that Jerry was killed by hostile fire. Actions by Jerry and his platoon broke the enemy assault and saved the lives of other men in his company. Jerry was awarded the following medals for his service. Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal with Valor, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and the Peoples Republic of South Vietnam Campaign Medal.
In a letter to Jerry’s parents, Captain Richard L. Hickson shared the circumstances of Jerry’s death. We share it here because we know most of his friends never knew.
“I am writing concerning your son Jerry and the facts relating to his death.
As you know he was killed on June 7, 1971. On this day the company was working west of a fire support base called C-2. That morning we drove our Armored Personnel Carriers out on an operation as we did every day.
It was pretty uneventful going out and setting up. We completed setting up about 8 a.m. Jerry’s Platoon, the third platoon of my company, continued working on to the west on foot. They didn’t go very far out — approximately one mile. The platoon worked this area until about 2:30 p.m. Up until this time the day had been pretty uneventful.
At about 3 p.m. the company mounted up and started moving East back towards C-2. At this time we started receiving enemy 122mm Rocket fire.
I called in artillery and we continued on East. About 3:30 to 3:45 p.m. the first platoon came under heavy enemy small arms fire and B-40 fire.
They were having a bad time of it so I moved Jerry’ s platoon, the third platoon, up on the enemy’s flank. This broke the enemy attack. It was at this point that Jerry was killed as his platoon moved in on the enemy’s flank.
Jerry’s platoon had a medic with them and he was at your son’s side within one minute after Jerry was hit. He was dead when the medic got to him. The cause of the injury to Jerry was a small arms round in the chest.
I suppose you are wondering how the medic got to him so fast. Well Mr. and Mrs. Thomas, I worked with this group of young men for eight months and you would be amazed at their efforts to save one of their buddies when hit.
I sincerely hope this letter will answer any questions you folks might have remaining. If not, please feel free to write me as I will do my utmost to answer them for you.
Sincerely, Richard L. Hickson, Captain, US Army, 124th USA Advisory Group”