SC's World War II twin veterans have grandson memorialized at Fort Jackson
LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Born and raised in Lexington, Thomas Caughman, was a decorated soldier at Fort Jackson who was killed in the line of duty while serving overseas.
He also happens to be the grandson of the 91-year-old twins and World War II veterans that WIS-TV reported on in our Year of the Veteran Series.
Though his twin grandfathers have a remarkable story, Thomas Caughman certainly made name for himself truly giving his all to fight for what he believed in.
His mother, Jane Caughman said Thomas was just full of life.
"He really was. I don't know if I remember him being upset about anything. So, he was just a good kid," she said.
"He played baseball a little bit, as a youngster, but then when he got his driver's license and was able to go, his interests turned to outdoors - hunting and fishing - and that's what he loved to do," Thomas' father, Hampton Caughman Jr. said.
A student at Lexington High School, Thomas, left a lasting impression. Hampton recalls a former high school teacher of Thomas'.
"He said it did not surprise him that Thomas joined the military because of his reaction in his class on 9/11/2001. He said, 'might be a future soldier right there,' and it was," Hampton recalled.
Thomas graduated high school a year later and joined the Army Reserve in 2003. He soon found out the Army was looking for volunteers who would be deployed overseas.
"He and five other soldiers volunteered that day," Hampton said.
"Oh, I was really not thrilled at all," Thomas's mom confessed. "I'm going to be honest. I was not thrilled. Of course, I was worried. I knew with war, what the chances of him going would be."
Hampton said about two weeks later, Thomas found out that he had been picked to be transferred. He left for Baghdad on New Year's Eve, and his parents didn't exactly rest easy with Thomas's decision.
"It was a lot of sleepless nights. He would call and, of course, it's eight hours difference in time, and we told him it didn't matter, 'whenever you have a chance to call, call," Hampton said.
But the family, including his sister Lisa, supported Thomas living out his dream.
"Very proud! We did not try to discourage him. This is what he wanted to do, and he felt led to do," Hampton said.
It was early June, only months after Thomas had been deployed that his dad says his unit was ambushed.
"They had finished a mission. On the way back to their base camp, they were ambushed," Hampton said.
The very next morning, Hampton says he and his wife received the news about Thomas' passing.
"Our doorbell rang and it was two officers, a notification team, from Ft. Jackson and they came and they told us that our son had died the day before in combat operations and I think the first thing I said was, 'you must be mistaken because I talked to him yesterday,'" Hampton said.
Today, the Caughmans have memorials inside and outside of Thomas' childhood home. Plus, the memorial inside the Thomas Caughman building on Ft. Jackson.
"As parents, the last thing you want is for your children to be forgotten. So, I knew that was something that would be there forever to remember him by," Jane said.
A tree that's now growing in their backyard was planted by members of Thomas' platoon. They were with him at the time of the attack and traveled to Lexington to meet the Caughmans and dedicate the memorial tree in Thomas' honor.
Thomas Caughman was the first soldier out of the 81st Reserve Unit to die in combat since Vietnam. This is one of the reasons that his name was chosen in 2007, for the new 81st Army Reserve building on Fort Jackson.
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