Honoring service, sacrifice

While growing up in Morehead, Collin Thomas dreamed of being a Navy SEAL.

Chief Petty Officer Thomas achieved that dream, serving in the elite corps in Iraq and in Afghanistan, where he died during a combat operation in eastern Afghanistan Aug. 18. CPO Thomas, 33, will be buried in his hometown today.

Another Kentucky native, who died this month from combat wounds received during his second tour in Afghanistan, will also be buried today. Spc. Christopher S. Wright, who was eulogized earlier this week, will be buried in his hometown of Tollesboro.

CPO Thomas was deployed to Afghanistan as part of a Navy SEAL Team based at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Va.

A senior officer in his command described him as "an incredibly gifted Navy SEAL," in a statement released by the Navy. "His tireless professionalism, inspiring passion for life and humble demeanor made him a role model for all who knew him," the unidentified officer said.

CPO Thomas, who was a chief special warfare operator, received many recognitions during his 13-year Navy career, including two Bronze Stars; a Purple Heart; a Joint Service Commendation Medal; a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal; Six Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals; Two Combat Action Ribbons; Four Good Conduct Medals; the National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars; Iraq Campaign Medal; Marksmanship medals with "expert" service device for both rifle and pistol, and a multitude of personal, unit and campaign decorations.

CPO Thomas graduated from Rowan County High School in 1995 and attended Morehead State University until he enlisted in the Navy in 1997. He had been assigned to SEAL teams since 2000.

He is survived by his parents, Clayton and Paula Thomas, his sister Meghan and his fiancée Sarah Saunders.

We offer our condolences to CPO Thomas' family and friends and honor his dedicated service and final sacrifice.