EASLEY – An Easley man was among three Army National Guardsmen killed during combat operations in Afghanistan on Wednesday.
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Bradford Thomas, 30, of Easley, along with 1st Lt. Ryan Davis Rawl, 30, of Lexington, and Spc. John David Meador II, 36, of Columbia, was killed in Khowst City, Khowst Province, Afghanistan when their patrol was attacked by a suicide bomber.
Thomas leaves behind his wife, Jana and two year-old son, Cayden.
“We hate to lose anybody in this terrible war, but one close to home like this is sad,” said Easley Mayor Larry Bagwell. “We just feel for the people, the parents, and the community. The City of Easley sends out its blessings to the family and we just hope they do the best they can. We’re thinking about them, we love them, and if there is anything the City of Easley can do to help I hope they will call on us.”
Bagwell says Thomas’ death is a horrific reminder of what is sacrificed for Easley, and the United States each day.
“Military families play a big part in this community,” said Bagwell. “The City of Easley recognizes the part (the militry) plays in protecting our freedom. We respect and depend on our military in all forms.”
Five South Carolina National Guard soldiers were also wounded.
All eight soldiers are assigned to the 133rd Military Police Company, headquartered in Timmonsville. The mission of the 133rd MP Company in Afghanistan is to train members of the Afghan Uniformed Police in Khowst Province. The unit deployed 170 soldiers to Afghanistan in November 2011. The 133rd MP Company is scheduled to return home this August.
“These deaths are grim reminders that our Military, to include the South Carolina National Guard, is still in active combat in defense of our country. We are privileged to have such heroes in our midst,” said Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr., the state’s Adjutant General.
With these latest fatalities, 16 members of the South Carolina National Guard have died in combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2003. The most recent combat fatalities were in October 2010, when two soldiers from the 1221st Engineer Company were killed by an IED.
“This tragic news is a constant reminder that our men and women in uniform and their families deserve our thanks each and every day. We continue to pray for the recovery of the injured and the families of the lost, and South Carolina will now put all of our focus on helping them going forward,” said Governor Nikki Haley
Funeral arrangements have not yet been made for Thomas, as the family awaits a pending autopsy.