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Utah Guard mourns soldier killed in Afghanistan
Draper • He was a father figure to his platoon. A soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with his southern Utah-based National Guard unit.
On Saturday, Sgt. 1st Class James Thode with the 118th Engineer Company was remembered. He died Thursday from a roadside bomb when insurgents attacked his unit as the soldiers were clearing land mines in Afghanistan's Khowst province.
Thode, 45, enlisted in the Utah National Guard as a combat engineer, or sapper, in 2002. In Blanding, where he had trained, boundaries are blurred in the remote stretches of southeastern Utah. Soldiers in the Four Corners area are drawn from neighboring states.
Thode, a resident of Kirtland, N.M., was a 14-year veteran police officer in Farmington, N.M. He is the sixth Utah National Guardsman to die in the line of duty, and the third killed in Afghanistan.
At a news conference at Guard headquarters, Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet said Thode was killed "while leading his soldiers in combat, doing what great noncommissioned officers of our military have done for generations. We'll be privileged to participate to the full extent the family requests in rendering military honors at the funeral in New Mexico. The citizens of Utah should know that one of their finest has fallen."
Thode is survived by a wife and two children.
"We pray that his loved ones and friends will be comforted at this difficult time, and especially during the holiday season," Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement. "I join with all Utahns in extending my personal appreciation for the sacrifices of this selfless soldier and his fellow troops in Afghanistan."
Thode was among a 30-person team of sappers to leave Utah in July. In 2003 he was deployed to Iraq with the Utah Guard's 1457th Engineer Battalion.
Sgt. Maj. Richard Thalman, who served with Thode in Iraq, said he was well-trained and a father figure to younger soldiers.
"He was the glue that held people together," said Sgt. David Liddle, who also served with Thode in Iraq. "This time is going to be difficult for his fellow soldiers."