Tuesday, March 13

Our Ex-Army Ranger Neighbor

Thomas "Thunder" Thornton

Our cabin, Summer 2002
Following the rules of a saying, The 5 Pees, while making maple syrup, got me thinking about that saying and the old Military guy who taught it to us. 

My husband and I have a little cabin in the woods in the Hocking Hills area, outside of Logan, Ohio.
A small primitive cabin when we purchased it, we have since added a well and shower.

Bill and I, (and me way before I even met Bill), have always loved the outdoors, hiking, camping, campfires. You get the idea.

Well, one morning, I'm not sure how it happened, but we climbed, (barely and slowly) out of our tent and realized:  It hurts to sleep on the ground!

Something had happened, the Earth had stopped rotating, or something, but we had grown old enough that sleeping in a tent ON THE GROUND, hurt with a capitol H!
*A note here: technology has caught up, we have pads and vapor barriers and are tent camping again)

So, slowly we stopped sleeping in our tent as often. But we missed the nights in the woods something awful!
We decided to shop around for a permanent "camp site" or woods to call our own, and maybe build something to sleep in, off the ground.

After months of searching, nothing.
Everything we looked at was a house with a yard to mow.
We already had one of those.

One day, after traveling to the southern part of Ohio near the Ohio river to look at a so called "cabin in the woods" (it wasn't) we drove home through the Hocking Hills area and stopped at a local watering hole (tavern with food) called Jimbo's.
We had been in Jimbo's a time or two after hiking the trails at Hocking Hills State Park.
Jimbo (the owner of Jimbo's) just happen to know of a little cabin for sale in the area and gave us the directions.

We were so discouraged from looking at houses with yards called "cabins" that we didn't hold out any hope for this one.
We were wrong.
It was exactly what we were looking for!
The cabin was a little over 2 miles from Jimbo's, 2 miles from Ash Cave, on top of a hill, in the middle of the woods and up a very winding road. Alexis was 11 years old and Daniel 8 when we pulled up to the roped off lane leading to the cabin. As we parked, the kids jumped out of the car and we all starting talking at the same time, commenting on how beautiful the cabin was and that it was just what we were looking for.

Our excitement was interrupted by a very loud and deep voice yelling:

Bill had heard from Jimbo that an old ex-military guy lived in the cabin next door and that he was mean and grouchy. This day he was packing (as in a loaded pistol!)
With the hair standing up on our arms (yes, scared) Bill yelled back across the ravine: "Don't shoot Tom, it's me Bill, Jimbo sent us to look at this cabin for sale."

Eleven days later, the cabin was ours.

Tom enjoying an afternoon fishing
Tom slowly began to like us, well tolerate us is a better description really. He tells everyone, while sitting at our cabin or having dinner with us, that the day we bought the cabin was the worst day in his life.  We know deep down he likes us.
We soon discovered that under that gruff exterior was a really nice guy, most of the time.
He has sat many a nights with us around the campfire, retelling of his youth and many adventures and scraps he has gotten into.
For example: He had a tattoo by the age of 6!

Gradually we learned a lot about Tom, but his heroic deeds he kept pretty close to him.  We did learn that he was an Army veteran, had been an Army Airbourne Ranger, an instructor at a college in Dayton, and went to barber school, even owning his own shop.
He has 5 children, and had continued to pay his ex-wife alimony until her death, just a few years ago.
He never attempted to stop the payments, because he said, he felt she deserved them, since he was gone most of the time they were married and the kids were little.
Tom also did two tours in Vietnam.
Which brings me to his heroics:

Tom is a pretty private man, but that is nearly impossible for him be with Bill and the kids bothering him every time we go to the cabin.

An old photo of Tom
(far right receiving a medal)
Over time we learned he had been awarded many metals, and has been written about in a book. But after learning what the metals were for, particularly the Bronze Stars with the V Device for Valor,
(Tom has 3 Bronze stars);
I got to thinking he should be in the Military Hall of Fame.

I don't think our military men and women get enough credit for what they do and are doing for us.
This guy especially, not only once but many times risk his own life for his men. And I think he would do that for me, for my kids, and for Bill.

There's not many people I believe I can say that about.

Tom was willing to allow me to submit an application to the Military Hall of Fame, and that application was accepted. In order to be accepted documents, records and proof had to be submitted with the application.

Tom was inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame in a ceremony held in May of 2005 in our capital on the Veterans Plaza at the Ohio Statehouse. The ceremony included a reading of Tom's citation for valor and the formal presentation of the Ohio Medal of Valor.

Platoon Sergeant Thomas W. Thornton Class of 2005

United States Army

Bronze Star with "V" Device


For heroism in connection with military operations against a hostile force. Sergeant Thornton distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 21 November 1967 during the battle for Hill 875, near Dak To, Republic of Vietnam.

On this day, Company A, 4th Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry engaged an estimated regimental sized force of North Vietnamese during the initial assault for the hill and almost immediately suffered ten to twelve friendly casualties from enemy mortar fire. Sergeant Thornton immediately volunteered for a patrol with the mission of moving over three hundred meters into enemy territory to rescue the wounded men.
Moving through dense terrain Sergeant Thornton and his patrol came under sporadic enemy automatic weapons fire. They kept moving and finally reached the wounded men at a point between the enemy bunkers and the friendly perimeter.
Sergeant Thornton immediately helped to administer medical aid to the wounded men and supervised their removal to the friendly perimeter. By now the enemy automatic weapons fire had increased and on several occasions Sergeant Thornton protected the wounded men with his own body, while at the same time placing effective suppressive fire on the enemy positions.
After the last wounded man had been successfully rescued and returned to the company perimeter Sergeant Thornton moved to the point of heaviest contact and continued to inspire the men and direct their fire upon the enemy.

The battalion surgeon later said that if Sergeant Thornton and the patrol had not rescued the wounded men many of the more seriously wounded would have surely died. Sergeant Thornton’s outstanding display of aggressiveness, devotion to duty, and personal bravery were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Thomas "Thunder" Thornton, in front wearing the medal, along side friends and family
(That's me in the back with the "Hollywood" glasses and looking goofy, as always)

Thanks Tom, for all you have done for our great country,


I wanna be an airborne ranger,

I wanna live the life of danger
Count off, one two
Cout off, three four

I wanna be an airborne ranger,
Live the life of guts and danger.

Airborne ranger,
Life of danger.


Kim said...

Hi Elizabeth! I am so wonderfully happy that I came across your charming blog. What a wonderful post! I loved reading this post a great deal and I think you and your family are extremely wonderful people for taking the time to appreciate Tom and what he has done for our country. :)

Love your cabin! My husband and I have also been looking for a small cabin in the mountains. Have a great week!

Elizabeth said...

Thank you for the kind comments. Good luck on your cabin search!


Camilla Croxdale said...

Elizabeth, I realize this story is from 2012. Is Tom still alive? My husbands brother was in this battle and he is one of three bodies that did not make it home. My husband was 10 when his brother died and his parents would not talk about it, they were so heartbroken. He was 2 weeks from coming home. His name was Jack Lee Croxdale,just wondering if Tom knew him. The book Blood on the Risers is dedicated to him. We have so little info about what really happened.


Camilla Croxdale