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Iraq Journals

Glimpses of life in a war-torn country by GNS national security correspondent John Yaukey and photo director Jeff Franko.


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Recall key dates, browse defining photos from six weeks of combat in Iraq. (Requires Flash)


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Friday, May 7

Iraq war separates U.S. Army married couple - forever

By Vicki Welborn | The (Shreveport, La.) Times

FRIERSON, La. - Love and the military brought them together seven years ago. Then war tore them apart.

The conflict in Iraq separated the couple for about four months this year and reunited them on foreign soil, even if but for a moment, last month only to separate them again.

This time, forever.

Army Staff Sgt. Pamela Thomas, 37, will bury her husband in a church cemetery Saturday in her hometown of Frierson. Army Staff Sgt. Kendall Thomas, a 36-year-old native of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, died in a convoy vehicle accident April 28 in Baghdad that apparently occurred when a civilian vehicle backed up to catch a missed turn.

``He was a wonderful husband. Any time we had available, it would be me and Kendall,'' his widow said Friday.

Pamela Thomas knew her husband was somewhere in Iraq. His deployment sent him there Jan. 7. She was deployed March 11. But with the chaos of war, she doubted they ever would cross paths.

It wasn't long, though, that she learned her husband was camped not far from her. ``I knew he had to be close, but I didn't know that he was that close.''

On April 26, they were able to see each other face to face for the first time since early January and made plans to meet again. Then Army officials told Pamela Thomas that the man she had embraced only two days earlier had been killed.

``That was the furthest thing from my mind because I had just spoken to him two days before,'' she said.

Within 24 hours, Pamela Thomas was back in the small northeast DeSoto Parish community of Frierson, where patriotism is visible with flags waving high from business and residential flagpoles. A red, white and blue sign plastered to the front of one residence on state Highway 175 proclaims, ``God Bless America.''

In the home of her parents, Eunice and Willie White, Pamela Thomas is joined by one of two sisters, DeSoto sheriff's Deputy Stephanie White, in coordinating funeral arrangements and the arrival of relatives and friends who will attend the services.

``He was my son, not my son-in-law ... I was Mom,'' Eunice White said. ``And I was Dad,'' Willie White said.

Alternating between a few tears and some smiles, the soft-spoken Pamela Thomas recalls how she met Kendall while both were deployed to Bosnia in 1997. Though not in the same battalion, they started dating in early 1998 and continued their romance when they returned stateside; he to North Carolina, she to Virginia. They married 18 months ago and had been stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.

With almost 17 years to his credit this year, Kendall Thomas had no plans to leave the military.

``He loved the adventure of it,'' said sister Louise Thomas Lettsome, 34, who moved from the Virgin Islands to Georgia about three years ago. ``Regular life was boring to him.''

Added Pamela Thomas: ``If the Army offered it, he'd do it ... jump out of planes, whatever. Life was not big enough.''

In Iraq, Kendall Thomas was a field artilleryman while Pamela Thomas was a petroleum supply specialist. She would only describe the war as ``rough,'' declining to go into details about the adversities soldiers face there.

``You see only portions on TV,'' Pamela Thomas said.

The death of her husband has caused Pamela Thomas to consider whether she wants to extend her military career beyond her 11 years of service. ``I just don't know right now.''

Meanwhile, she still is receiving letters from her husband. He wrote every day, and some of his last correspondence is just reaching her.

``The one I got last night, he told me to be safe and be careful.''