Easley soldier dies in suicide bomber attack in Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN — Tragedy continues in the international war on terror as three members of the National Guard were killed by a suicide bomber in Khowst Province, Afghanistan, June 20.
Among the dead was 30-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Bradford Thomas of Easley.
Also killed were 1st Lt. Ryan Davis Rawl, 30, of Lexington and Spc. John David Meader II, 36, of Columbia. Five other members of the National Guard were injured in the attack.
Thomas leaves behind a wife, Jana Hickey Thomas, and a 2-year-old son, Kayden Grant Thomas.
The attack also killed 21 civilians.
Thomas was a graduate of Travelers Rest High School. He worked for Charter Media before being called into action by the National Guard.
The son of Charles “Bud” and Marsha Thomas, he was a member of the 51st Military Police Battalion, stationed in Florence. He was also Sat of the 133rd Military Police Battalion, stationed in Timmonsville. The battalion, nicknamed the “Palmetto Regulators,” was training members of the Afghanistan uniformed police in the Khowst Providence.
“He was a good guy,” said Jeremy Hall, Thomas’ brother-in-law. “He married my sister and took good care of her. That’s pretty good in my book. It’s going to take a lot for Jana to get over losing such a great guy.”
Thomas was inspired to pursue a position with the military after the attacks by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, Hall said.
“These men died serving their country, and I want to express my deepest sympathy and condolences to their families, who are the unsung heroes of our war effort,” South Carolina Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr. said in a statement. “These deaths are grim reminders that our military, including 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.”
Governor Nikki Haley released a statement Friday regarding the deaths of the guardsmen as well.
“Michael and I are deeply saddened by the loss of our South Carolina heroes,” Haley said. “I attended the deployment of the 133rd, spent time with their families, and have prayed for their safe return. 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.”
Funeral plans were incomplete at press time.
“We’re basically waiting to see what the army does, when they release the body,” Hall said.
Funeral services will probably be at Rock Springs Baptist Church in Easley, Hall said, to allow room for all who would like to come and say good bye to a hero.
Burial will be in the cemetery of Nine Forks Baptist Church in Dacusville, where Jana Thomas is a member.
Hall said he hopes no outside group attempts to protest at the services.
“We’re just a simple, country family that has lost someone very special,” Hall said. “We need to deal with our grief. Nobody needs to hurt this family by making some kind of scene.”
Hall said the family welcomes anybody who wants to come and support the family or pay tribute to Thomas.
Deputy Sheriff Tony Robinson, a longtime member at Nine Forks, said he hopes any group wishing to protest at the funeral will forego the opportunity out of respect for the family.
“It’s private property all around the church, so we hope people will respect that,” Robinson said. “Whatever political statement they may want to make is small in comparison to the pain this family is going through together. Anyone wanting to protest the war effort should just write their congressman or senator, and allow this family to deal with their grief.”