>>>RELATED: For Kettering Army Ranger, service was 'all he lived and breathed'
Thomas, who grew up in Kettering, died April 26 during a raid on an ISIS-K compound as U.S. and Afghan forces targeted high-level insurgent leaders in eastern Afghanistan. He was killed by small-arms fire, according to the Department of Defense.
Thomas, a 2012 Kettering Fairmont High School graduate, was on the school’s swim team and practiced mixed martial arts in preparation for his future military career, his family said.
“He was a fixture in our home for more than three or four years,” said Tina Hohl, whose son was friends with Thomas. “He was always a great kid. He was always there to help everyone, and we knew him affectionately as ‘Captain America.’ ”
>>>RELATED: Pentagon: Kettering soldier may have been killed by friendly fire
Hohl said Thomas was a natural leader who would have been taken aback by all the attention at the vigil.
“But he deserves it,” she said.
Friends and family said it was Thomas’ lifelong dream to become an Army Ranger.
“It was a passion of his; he was very sincere about it,” Hohl said. “His senior year in high school, we actually arranged for him to go skydiving, and (the photo) is still on his Facebook page today. I think he really wanted to go skydiving not because it was cool but because in his mind it prepared him for the Rangers. He wanted to be one step ahead … the day that he jumped, he actually had the opportunity to meet with a lot of the special forces guys and the folks who had actually served in the military, so for him that experience was more than just a jump.”
An investigation is underway to determine whether Thomas, an anti-armor specialist, and Sgt. Joshua P. Rodgers, 22, of Bloomington, Ill., were killed by friendly fire. Both soldiers were assigned to Company D, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.
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