NORTHFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) — A soldier with Minnesota ties who was killed on Tuesday while on patrol in Afghanistan is being honored by his former college swim coach.
The Department of Defense reports 31-year-old Special Forces medical sergeant Adam Thomas was a Green Beret who served more than eight years in the military.
Thomas deployed once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan, earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star among other honors.
Before that, Thomas went to St. Olaf College in Northfield where he was a standout swimmer.
His family still lives in Minnesota.
For 28 years, St. Olaf swim coach Bob Hauck has watched young men and women give all they have in the water.
Hauck’s hope is always that what they learn inside the swimming pool lanes will never leave them even as they move on.
Hauck said Thomas embodied the best characteristics any athlete and person needs to succeed.
“He always had a great attitude. He was always a hard worker,” Hauck said. “When I think of him I think of someone that was inspirational.”
A 2007 graduate, Adam Thomas was an All-American conference champion swimmer during his time at St. Olaf.
Hauck remembers a leader who also knew the importance of teamwork.
“He loved to give impassioned talks to the team before we would compete,” Hauck said. “When I heard that he had gone in to the military I thought, ‘Yeah I can see that.’”
Staff Sgt. Adam Thomas helped with counter-terrorism efforts abroad.
During a patrol on Tuesday in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense says 31-year-old Thomas was killed by an improvised explosive device, or IED.
“First and foremost our hearts go out to his family who is in the midst of dealing with this tragedy,” Hauck said.
Hauck hopes Thomas’ legacy can live on through all the people who knew him and hopefully, future swimmers who did not get the chance.
“He embodied the same characteristics that we talk about on this team and you would’ve been proud to have him as a teammate,” Hauck said.
Thomas’ death is the seventh for a U.S. service member in Afghanistan this year.
The U.S. currently has about 9,500 troops in Afghanistan.