Taps sounded for the last time for Lt. Col. John F. Thomas US Army (Retired) on Thursday, September 5, 2013. After retirement John moved his family to Panama City and John opened the jewelry store, Jewelry by John, first in the Baldwin Plaza and then in its current location in the 23rd St. WalMart Plaza.
John enlisted in the military after high school and served in Korea in 1952-53, escorting Korean scouts through hostile territory for debriefing by US troops. After a break working as a Lock Guard on the Panama Canal and starting a family, he reenlisted and served with the 8240th Army Unit Special Forces United Nations Partisan Infantry. He returned to college at San Jose State and received a regular army commission as a 2nd Lt. Infantry. He joined the 20th Infantry in the Republic of Panama and was later assigned to the 10th Infantry.
In 1961 he received a branch transfer to the Military Police Corps and attended the career course at Ft. Gordon, Georgia, after which he was assigned as Commanding Officer of the Special Security Unit, Executive Fleet Detachment for the White House. He specifically served as the Security Officer in charge of protecting the Presidential helicopters during the tenure of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
In 1964 he was assigned the position of Provost Marshall Southern European Task Force, Vicenza, Italy. Later he became the Executive Officer of the Vicenza military post. In 1968 he went to Vietnam as a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and participated in the TET Offensive.
Upon his return he was assigned to the U.S. Army CID Command, Washington, D.C, after which he served as Commanding Officer Alaska Field Office, CID Command. He retired in 1972 moving to Panama City with his family.
Among others, his awards include the Bronze Star with one oak leaf cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal, Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Vietnamese Honor Medal, Presidential Service Medal, Combat Infantry Badge and Presidential American Unit Citation.
John left his amazing and exciting military career to raise a family of two girls and two boys, John F. Thomas, Jr. (Darnell) who has cared for him during failing health, Ronald G. Thomas (Inna), a Jacksonville physician, Donna Wheeler (George), a nursing instructor at Gulf Coast State College, and Debra Landon (Josh) an elementary school teacher in Okaloosa County. He also leaves his wife of 60 years, Glenna, and a sister, Ginger Littleton (A.C.). He was preceded in death by a brother, Colonel G.G. Thomas.
In addition to his immediate family he leaves nieces and nephews and their families as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Friends and family are invited to gather on Saturday, September 14th at 11 a.m. at the Gulf Coast View United Methodist Church for a memorial service to remember John's long and rich life.
Always one to have a chuckle and a sense of humor, John Thomas will be sorely missed by friends and family from across the globe. One whose memory lives in the hearts of others never dies. John's memory and his legacy live on long after that last, long bugle note fades to silence.
Wilson Funeral Home
Family Owned Since 1911
214 Airport Road
Panama City, Fla.
Published in Panama City News Herald on Sept. 8, 2013