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The Price My Step-Grandfather Major Wallace Thomas Paid

Military

US soldiers in the Konar Province, Afghanistan. (The U.S. Army/Flickr)

I never knew my stepfather’s father. I had only been told little stories about him. What I have come to find out, though, is that he was incredibly brave and fought with honor to protect our country and our freedom.

Major Wallace “Wally” Thomas was in the Army Air Corps during World War II and served as a B-17 engineer and member of the flying team. He was also a prisoner of war for almost two years.

Wally was held prisoner in Krems, Austria after his plane was shot down over Germany. He had broken his back in the fall, so his fellow soldiers had to carry him to the POW camp Stalag 17B where they were forced to march to. By the time he returned home to the States, he weighed 90 pounds and had been severely mistreated.

He later received the Purple Heart Medal, the Prisoner of War Medal and the Bronze Star for Air-Offensive Europe. His service even inspired my stepfather to join the Air Force.

All I’ve ever known about war and the armed forces are what I’ve seen in movies and television shows. However, after asking my stepfather a few simple questions about the grandfather I never got to meet, I gained a much deeper insight into the military and the sacrifices that have been made to keep us free.

Wallace Thomas was just one of the many brave men and women who have fought to defend our country’s freedom for hundreds of years. It’s important to shine a spotlight on the sacrifices that our troops make to defend all of us.

We are in the midst of the biggest and most influential presidential race that our country has ever seen. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in arguments over which candidate would do the worst to this country and vice versa, just like it’s easy to get wrapped up in all the negativity surrounding the race and one another.

My stepfather, Chris Thomas, a former pilot for the Air Force himself, put it best:

“Many people have fought, struggled, suffered and died in order to preserve our country, our freedoms, and our way of life. It doesn't come cheap. People need to understand and respect what that sacrifice means. If you are a citizen of our country, you too may be called on to serve your country. Do so with pride and honor.”

Military

Major Wallace “Wally” Thomas (Rachel Kelso)

Major Chris Thomas retired from the Air Force in 2006 after serving for 15 years. During his eight years of active duty, he flew F-16 “Flying Falcons.” He then served for seven years in the Air Force Reserve.

So instead of sitting at home arguing about how bad our country is or which candidate will make even more of a mess of it, remember the thousands of people who are putting their lives on the line to protect us and our freedom. They aren’t with their loved ones every day like we are. They risk everything to protect people they don’t know because they love this country.

That is something I will never take for granted.

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The Price My Step-Grandfather Major Wallace Thomas Paid

Rachel Kelso

Rachel is a sophomore at Georgia Southern University majoring in journalism with a Spanish minor. She currently writes for her school’s newspaper, The George-Anne, as well as Odyssey, creating relatable and interesting content for her audiences. Rachel hopes to someday become a broadcast journalist for CNN or write for companies like Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan or Huffington Post. She has a passion for writing, traveling, social justice and The Office. Tweet her at @Kelsohhhhhhh and check out her Instagram at @rachel.kelso.

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