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Forward observer in Afghanistan mountains
Army soldier Bryan Thomas with his father Les Thomas who also served in the Army. Bryan is currently deployed on the front lines in Afghanistan as a foot soldier. His father is a veteran of the Korean War. - photo by DENNIS WYATT
Bryan Thomas respects the sacrifices of soldiers who went before him and the challenges that they faced.

“Soldiers in World War II and Korea had it a lot rougher than we do today,” the 2006 Sierra High graduate said.

That’s not to say what Thomas deals with is easy.

Thomas is part of the 4th Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division serving America in Afghanistan as part of the Global War on Terror. He’s an Army E-4 Specialist assigned to battle troops deployed in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Thomas is a forward observer.

He noted nothing that he did in high school - he was a lineman for the Timberwolves football team, wrestled, and swam for Sierra - comes even close to the physical challenges soldiers face in the field.

“My vehicle is my feet,” noted Thomas.

And that “vehicle” also has to carry a lot of equipment - gun, ammunition, personal body armor, rations, water, and a host of other items including the equipment he needs to do his job as forward observer.

It helps that Thomas is good in math since pinpointing positions requires a lot of math skills.

Thomas credits his Army experience in the three years since he enlisted at age 20 for helping him to mature. He noted the camaraderie you experience with other soldiers in your unit - especially in battle situations - is unparalleled.

“They start as your friends and they become your brothers,” Thomas said. “You can’t explain it to someone who hasn’t been in the military.”

He also understands well the high cost of freedom. He’s lost several  “battle buddies” including one shortly before departing Afghanistan to spend time in Manteca with his wife Amanda Vierra as well as his farther Les Thomas and mother Dawn.

Thomas had a job for about nine months after graduating from Sierra. After losing that job, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the Army. His father Les served in the Korean War. Les has also been handling the Flags Over Manteca flag distribution since its inception by the Manteca Chamber of Commerce nine years ago.

“I’ve got the proudest dad in Manteca,” Thomas said with a smile.

Thomas said young people should consider the military as an option.

“It is a guaranteed job with a guaranteed income, you’ve got full medical care, and you really do grow up a lot,” Thomas said.

He noted that many soldiers take on-line classes and - when they can - classes at nearby colleges where bases are located stateside. He added that there is also the advantage of the GI Bill to complete your education after you are through serving.

Thomas plans to re-enlist with his eye on receiving training as an X-ray technician to help him pursue a medical career after he completes his service.

What’s up next, though, is a return to the front lines of the Global War on Terror in the snow-swept, barren mountains of Afghanistan where the temperature often drops down to zero.