Jim Thode may have lived south of Utah’s border in New Mexico, but he had a home in the Utah National Guard.
    And now the Guard is honoring the slain soldier, who died Dec. 2, 2010, in Afghanistan, by rededicating the Blanding armory in his memory. It will be renamed the James E. Thode Armory in a 1 p.m. ceremony on Friday.
    “I feel so honored they are going to do this,” said Thode’s widow, Carla, who is raising their 9-year-old son alone now in Kirtland, N.M., a small town near Farmington where Thode worked as a police sergeant.
    The 45-year-old soldier, who had passed on a promotion opportunity so he could go with “his boys” to Afghanistan, died when he was struck by an improvised explosive device while clearing a route for coalition forces.
    The 118th Sappers had been in the country only a few months when he died. By the time the rest of the company came home last July, it had become one of the most decorated in Utah National Guard history; 24 Purple Hearts were awarded this fall. Thode has been awarded one posthumously.
    His family, including Carla and her 20-year-old daughter, will be in Blanding for the dedication, as will 20 or 30 officers from the Farmington Police Department.
    Because the Blanding Guardsmen are so far from the rest of the Salt Lake City-based 118th, which is part of the 1457th Engineer Battalion out of American Fork, they often train on their own. Thode came to think of his soldiers, many of them young, as his family, and they looked up to him as a father figure, Carla Thode said.
    His good friend, Dale Bode, also a Farmington police sergeant, said Thode went to great pains to ensure his soldiers had meaningful training.
    “He was the kind of guy who did a lot of research on where, exactly, they would be going and what they would be facing,” Bode said.
    Thode was also beloved in Farmington and Kirtland, where he had worked with Scouts and often did favors for people, Bode said.
    When his funeral procession went by last December, there were easily 2,000 people lining the street, Bode said.
    Major Gen. Brian Tarbet, adjutant general of the Utah National Guard, said it was an easy decision to rename the Blanding armory after the soldier.
    “He was a class act,” Tarbet said Thursday. “That was a huge loss for the Utah National Guard and the Farmington community.”