Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

TOP STORY >>Cabot grad dies in Iraq after attack

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

A 1998 graduate of Cabot High School was killed Saturday while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Department of Defense announced.

Army First Lt. Thomas Martin, 27, a West Point graduate of San Antonio, died Sunday in Al Busayifi, Iraq, from wounds he suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire during combat operations.

Martin was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division in Ft. Richardson, Alaska.

Pvt. Nathan Z. Thacker, an 18-year-old Army private from Greenbrier, also died over the weekend in a roadside bombing near Kirkuk, Iraq.

Thacker was the 54th Arkansan to die in Iraq, and Martin was the the 55th to die there.

Martin had lived in Cabot since elementary school. His mother, Candi, was a teacher for Cabot schools and his father, Ed, was often at the schools as a substitute teacher.

Cabot School District’s Robert Martin (no relation), director of career and technical education, was principal at Cabot High in 1998 and remembers him as having been active in school.

“Tom was involved in Key Club, German Club and band, making All-Region Band his sophomore year,” Martin said. “He was a wonderful young man. Those that knew him knew he was funny and outgoing.”

An Eagle Scout, he took on cleaning up the old red train caboose, which now sits by the railroad tracks behind city hall, as a service project.

“He remodeled it to make it where people could go inside. If you saw it before and looked in it after he was through – it was daylight and dark,” Martin said.

Not one to seek the spotlight, his actions always drew attention in a positive way, he said.

“If he had a strong conviction to do something, he did it and gave it his all,” he said.

“He was a great man and it’s a shame we don’t have him anymore,” Martin said, adding, “The good Lord has another angel up there with him.”

The family was also involved at Cabot United Methodist Church.

“Tom and his family were active members of the Cabot United Methodist Church since he was in elementary school. He was very involved in the youth group and in youth mission activities,” said Pat Hagge, a family friend and father of Jana Hagge, also a 1998 CHS graduate.

“He was very polite and respectful. I can’t think of him ever overreacting; he had a wonderful, good-natured personality,” Hagge said.

“It’s a terrible tragedy; he was a great young man,” Hagge said.

After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Army and was sent to Korea, Ray Vining, associate pastor at Cabot UMC, said. After returning from Korea he enrolled at West Point, graduating in 2005.

“He was a fine, Christian young man,” Vining said.

“He was always wearing a smile and was a good friend to everyone in the community.”

Martin’s family moved to Nebraska and later to Texas while he was at West Point.

His family now lives in San Antonio.

Thacker died Friday when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Three other soldiers were also injured; one was seriously injured.

Thacker enlisted in the Army in April and arrived at Fort Drum, NY, where he served as an infantryman in the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, in August.