Bomb in Iraq kills Utahn
"De oppresso liber" is the motto of the U.S. Army special forces, but Brandon Thomas took it as his own.
The Latin phrase means, "To liberate the oppressed." The Utah National Guard soldier believed America was doing the right thing in Iraq, and his beliefs took him to that country. But they couldn't deliver him home.
Thomas, a 27-year-old from West Valley, died Saturday in Iraq from an attack by suicide bombers. The attackers struck shortly after 11 a.m. - 1 a.m. Mountain time - as a convoy of three armored SUVs entered Saadoun Street, a crowded commercial avenue in central Baghdad, from Tahrir Square, a large traffic circle, according to The Washington Post.
The blasts killed two Americans and injured three others in the vehicles, a U.S. Embassy official told the paper. The Americans were employed by a U.S. security contracting firm that he declined to identify. Twenty Iraqis were also killed, he said.
Thomas' family, who gathered Saturday at his mother's home in Murray, said they didn't know the details of his death. The company Thomas worked for, Fayetteville, N.C.-based CTU Consulting, called his brother early Saturday to inform the family Thomas was dead. A representative of the company did not respond to messages left by The Salt Lake Tribune.
Carol Young-Thomas said she spoke with her son Friday on Yahoo! Messenger. He told her he was participating in a "hard detail" on Saturday, meaning he was guarding one or more high-profile figures, but he didn't say who.
Thomas was a sergeant in the Utah Army National Guard, but he had not been deployed to Iraq - he was working there as a civilian, his family said. Young-Thomas said her son left for Iraq in January when he began working for CTU.
"He felt like if we didn't stop the terrorism over there, it would be over here," Young-Thomas said.
Thomas was born March 21,1978, in West Valley City. He graduated from from Cottonwood High School in 1996.
His family described him yesterday as someone who lived an extreme life. He skied, sky dived and cliff dived. He also spent a few years as an aspiring actor. He had background parts in the television show "Everwood," which films in Salt Lake City, and worked as a stand-in for other actors in the movie "Benji: Off the Leash," which filmed in parts of Utah.
But Thomas' life changed when terrorists attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001. Young-Thomas said he felt compelled to do something. The month after the attacks, he began the process of enlisting into the National Guard.
Thomas completed special forces training in North Carolina. He also adopted the special forces motto as his own and gave his mother a necklace pendent inscribed with the phrase.
"It was his creed, and he took it seriously," said his father Steve Thomas.
Brandon Thomas hoped to use his military and security experience to enter a career in federal law enforcement. His mother is a retired deputy with the U.S. Marshall's Office. His father is a retired deputy with the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office. His brother currently works as a deputy in the office.
Young-Thomas said the Utah National Guard has said Brandon Thomas will be buried with military honors.
Brandon Thomas is the second West Valley man to die in Iraq this year. U.S. Marine Cpl. Matthew R. Smith and 30 others died Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash there.
Nearly 300 people have been killed in insurgent violence since Iraq's democratically elected government was sworn in 10 days ago.
Seven government posts remained undecided until Saturday when Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said he would submit nominations for six of them to the National Assembly for a vote Sunday. A Sunni military man was selected for the defense ministry, members of al-Jaafari's Shiite-dominated alliance said.