By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – Pfc. Bryan R. Thomas loved all kinds of music, but his favorite song was Travis Tritt's "It's a Great Day to be Alive."
Thomas was known to constantly belt out the lyrics:
"And it's a great day to be alive;
I know the sun's still shinin' when I close my eyes;
There's some hard times in the neighborhood;
But why can't every day be just this good?"
The song symbolized his life because he loved to wake up and start each day, said Spc. Raymond Hernandez, reading from remarks made by a deployed friend.
Thomas was honored by the 4th Infantry Division at a memorial ceremony Thursday at Fort Hood. He and Staff Sgt. Kenneth W. Mayne were killed Sept. 4 in Baghdad, Iraq, when their vehicle came upon a roadside bomb. They deployed with the division's Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team in March, according to information from Fort Hood.
Both men were in their 20s: Mayne was 29, and Thomas died one month before his 23rd birthday. Mayne had served more than 11 years in the Army, and Thomas had served just 11 months. Mayne was a seasoned soldier with multiple deployments under his belt, and Thomas was an eager soldier on his first deployment, said Maj. Philip Secrist, the brigade's rear detachment commander.
Thomas was an adventurous, easy-going guy who loved the simple life, Hernandez said. He loved working with animals and photography, earning a bachelor's degree in photography before joining the Army.
Thomas was full of energy and new ideas, and had wit and an engaging smile, Secrist said, reading remarks from Bravo Company's commander in Iraq.
Thomas was a native of Battle Creek, Mich. His military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Thomas is survived by his mother, Pamela Sikora, and his father, Mark Thomas.
Mayne has a mischievous chuckle that put everyone on their toes, Staff Sgt. James Whitten read from remarks by a fellow sergeant in Iraq.
When Mayne went on home on leave, several sergeants started saying, "What would Mayne do?" and applied it to anything from patrols to joke telling.
"WWMD" wasn't just a joke, though. Mayne was one of the best noncommissioned officers, Whitten said. The Army wasn't just a job – it was his career.
The sergeant was a rock, a key piece of the unit, Secrist said. He didn't lead with flair and pomp. He asked his soldiers to look like he looked, go where he went and shoot where he shot, Secrist added. Mayne embodied the infantryman's motto: "Follow me."
Mayne is a native of Fort Benning, Ga. His military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge and the Air Assault Badge.
Mayne is survived by his wife, Elena; his parents, Daniel and Michelle Benavidez; two sisters, Christina Biederman and Jennifer Morman; and brother, Danny Benavidez.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7547.