FORT HOOD, Texas — An Army Chaplain is there through the good times and bad. They provide spiritual support, guidance, and friendship to all the Soldiers and spouses in their command. Chaplains touch lives of Soldiers throughout their lifetime from births and baptism, to marriages, to the loss of life, but who does a Soldier go to when it's the Chaplain that passes away?
Captain Rodney V. Thomas, Chaplain for 180th Transportation Battalion, 13 Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), died at 43, shortly after physical training Tuesday morning.
Thomas was from Goldthwaite, Texas. He entered the Army in 1994 but began preaching a few years prior.
Thomas recently redeployed from a year long deployment with the 180th Transportation Battalion from Kuwait on 15 August. The 180th Transportation Battalion was responsible for providing logistical support throughout Iraq, which required frequent convoys into Iraq.
He saw off every convoy and had a little prayer with them, said Captain David Blanchard, Commander of HHD, 180th Transportation Battalion. It was amazing he was able to keep up with all of them because they left many different hours of day and night. Blanchard said, "I've never met anyone so selfless to the service and dedicated to Soldiers."
Blanchard, a close bunkmate, still remembers listening to Thomas "three in the morning stumbling to get on his boots to see off another convoy."
Not every convoy left without him. Thomas had over 1200 miles on combat convoys. LTC Bill Moseley, commander of 180th Transportation Battalion, said "He put himself in harms way just to be with the Soldiers in Iraq." He went on more convoys than any other staff member in the 180th.
He was a "hands-on Chaplain" and "really poured himself into his calling," said Moseley. "He was down to earth, wasn't afraid to get dirty, and insisted doing everything with Soldiers," said Blanchard. He would stay in the motorpool with the Soldiers and get under the trucks with them as well. "Soldiers really loved him," said Blanchard.
Thomas did not only take care of his Soldiers but his community as well. "He had a passion for serving other people, didn't matter who they were or what they needed or circumstance," said Doug Holtz, friend and pastor of 1st Baptist Church in Goldthwaite. Holtz told a story of a child that recently found out about the death of Thomas and the child said "he served Jesus down here."
Thomas and wife, Lori, were very involved in the community. They invited local high school kids into their home and sponsored them, said Moseley. They had a room setup with a television and playstation and Thomas would sit, play and talk with kids, said Blanchard.
"He was the most dedicated, hardest working Chaplain I ever met," said Blanchard.
Chaplain Thomas performing a memorial service during his recent deployment to Kuwait. (picture provided by 180th Transportation Battalion)