Thomas P. Belkofer
Lieutenant Colonnel, United States Army
Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 412-10
DOD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of five soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died May 18, 2010, in Kabul, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their convoy with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.
Colonel John M. McHugh, 46, of New Jersey, assigned to the U.S. Army Battle Command Training Program, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
Lieutenant Colonel Paul R. Bartz, 43, of Waterloo, Wisconsin., assigned to Headquarters, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, New York
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas P. Belkofer, 44, of Perrysburg, Ohio, assigned to Headquarters, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, New York
Staff Sergeant Richard J. Tieman, 28, of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, assigned to Special Troops Battalion, V Corps, Heidelberg, Germany; and
Specialist Joshua A. Tomlinson, 24, of Dubberly, Louisiana, assigned to Special Troops Battalion, V Corps, Heidelberg, Germany.
For more information on McHugh, media may contact U.S. Army Battle Command Training Program PAO at 913-683-4118.
For more information on Bartz and Belkofer, media may contact 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) PAO at 315-408-3087.
For more information on Tieman and Tomlinson,
media may contact U.S. Army, Europe and Seventh Army PAO at 011-49-6221576315.
When an Army officer came bearing news that their son had been killed in Afghanistan, Sharon and Donald Belkofer, Jr., were convinced he must be mistaken.
Their middle child, Army Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Belkofer, wasn't due in combat until October.
"We argued with them," Mrs. Belkofer said.
"It can't be. He's not even supposed to be over there."
Colonel Thomas Belkofer was two years away from retiring from the military, and Afghanistan was his last combat order.
But there was no mistake.
Colonel Belkofer hadn't shared with his parents
or two brothers that he was to spend a few weeks in leadership training
in Afghanistan months before being deployed there as a commander. The 44-year-old
man was one of five officers killed near Kabul Tuesday when a suicide bomber
attacked their convoy, military officials said.
"It's like you're in a fog," Mr. Belkofer said yesterday, sitting close to his wife on the living room couch in their Perrysburg Township home.
"You think you're watching something in a movie. You think, this isn't even real," Mrs. Belkofer said.
"Because even though you feared something like this could happen, you don't believe it will happen."
Colonel Belkofer was assigned to the headquarters of the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, NewYork.
He is survived there by his wife, Margo, and their two daughters, Alyssa, 15, and Ashley, 11.
A woman who answered the telephone at his New York home said his wife was not available for comment because she was "busy with a lot of company."
The elder Mrs. Belkofer said her daughter-in-law and her granddaughters are leaning on the "tremendous support system" of the other military families at Fort Drum.
Colonel Belkofer's 18-year service sent him to posts in Italy, Fort Meade, Maryland, the Pentagon, and a 13-month combat deployment Afghanistan in 2005.
He remained on active duty as he earned a master's degree in business administration from Syracuse University.
His death was just two years before he would have been eligible for retirement, his family said. Colonel Belkofer volunteered for what he expected would be his final deployment and hoped it would lead to a promotion from lieutenant colonel to full colonel, his elder brother, Don Belkofer, 46, of Curtice, said.
"He was just passionate about everything that he was involved in - 110 percent or not at all," his elder brother asserted.
"He wasn't the kind of guy that would take a job, put in his years, and retire."
Growing up, he was an active, determined youth.
"Of the three, he was probably the one if you told him to do something, you'd expect more of an argument out of him," his father said, smiling.
Before he graduated in 1983, he was a football player and stand-out wrestler at Rossford High School.
He briefly attended Wright State University and the University of Toledo before transferring to Bowling Green State University.
He served in the Army National Guard before signing up for the ROTC program at BGSU, where he met his college sweetheart and future wife, Margaret "Margo" Maness.
They married in 1992, the same year he earned a bachelor's degree in architectural and environmental design technology. Both entered the Army upon graduation. She rose to become a captain before resigning to care for their two children, the family said.
Though all three of the Belkofer sons served in the military - with the eldest, Don, spending six years with the Navy, and the youngest, Doug, in the Army National Guard for seven - the family was surprised when Thomas first expressed interest in a long-term military career.
His younger brother, Doug Belkofer, 42, of Euless, Texas, said he believed he set his heart on moving up the ranks after training at Fort Benning in Georgia.
"He seemed different after that. He seemed really kind of psyched up about being in the military. He seemed really excited about it," his younger brother said.
"I like to think he was doing what he loved and what he was passionate about, because that's what I want to believe. A lot of people think I'm crazy for jumping out of planes as much as I do. I know it's dangerous, but I accept that risk for what I get from it."
His parents have their own opinions about the war, but do not blame the government or the military for their son's death.
Mrs. Belkofer has expressed her opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in several letters to the editor submitted to The Blade.
"If I could wiggle my nose and get everyone out, I would," Mrs. Belkofer said yesterday.
"But it doesn't work that way. You can't desert those people."
Now, she's trying to focus on her son's accomplishments rather than her frustrations about the politics that sent him into harm's way.
"You get angry. You want to take it out on
somebody, that you never get to see him again," Mrs. Belkofer said. "But
there is so much pride as well."
When Army officers arrived at Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Belkofer's parents' home with news of his death in Afghanistan, his parents were incredulous. His second tour in the long war wasn't due to begin for another five months.
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Belkofer and three other high-ranking officers were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 18, 2010.
"My husband and I both said to the colonel who came here to tell us, 'There must be some mistake. He's not there. He's not going until October. It must be someone else,'" Sharon Belkofer, the 44-year-old lieutenant colonel's mother, told ABCNews.com.
But a suicide bomber detonated a minibus in a convoy carrying Belkofer and three other high-ranking officers in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday morning. The victims included two full colonels -- one was Canadian -- and two American lieutenant colonels who were on a two-week visit in advance of their upcoming deployments.
The Army identified the American colonel as John M. McHugh, 46, from West Caldwell, New Jersey, who was assigned to the United States Army Battle Command Training Program at Fort Leavenworth , Kansas. One of McHugh's five children, Michael McHugh, was a soldier serving in Iraq and met his father's body in Kuwait to accompany him home. The other lieutenant colonel was identified as Paul R. Bartz, 43, of Waterloo, Wisconsin.
The Canadian was identified as Colonel Geoff Parker, 42, of the Royal Canadian Regiment. He was the highest-ranking Canadian to die in Afghanistan.
The blast, which also took the lives of a specialist and a sergeant, claimed the largest number of ranking American officers in any insurgent attack in the eight-year Afghan war. Two colonels and a lieutenant colonel were killed -- along with nine other soldiers -- when a Chinook helicopter crashed in Iraq in 2007.
So far, nine lieutenant colonels and two colonels have been killed in Afghan combat. In Iraq, 20 lieutenant colonels and nine colonels have died.
"I'm sure the Taliban is quite happy about that," Doug Belkofer, the younger brother of the lieutenant colonel, told ABCNews.com of the lastest assault on Army brass. "That's one of the things I really hate about this war and it has nothing to do with the reasons for being in it. It's such a different kind of war. We're not fighting a country. We're fighting terrorists who don't have a home country."
On Tuesday afternoon, an Army officer delivered the bad news to Sharon and Donald Belkofer, Jr., at the Perrysburg Township, Ohio, home where the couple raised their three sons.
"You think you're watching something in a movie," Sharon Belkofer told the Toledo Blade. "You think this isn't even real."
The couple realized that it really was their son who was killed as the officer described Belkofer's military history.
Belkofer was assigned to the headquarters of the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) in Fort Drum, New York, where he lived with his wife, Margo, and their two daughters, Alyssa, 15, and Ashley, 11. His 18-year military career included a 13-month combat deployment Afghanistan in 2005.
Neither Belkofer nor his wife, a former soldier who rose to the rank of captain before resigning to care for their children, told Belkofer's parents about the two-week deployment to Afghanistan, Doug Belkofer said.
"It was not unusual for us to not know everything
that was going on," Sharon Belkofer told ABCNews.com of her son's moment-by-moment
Tom was born on June 2, 1965 in Toledo, Ohio to Donald Jr. and Sharon (O'Keefe) Belkofer. He graduated from Rossford High School in 1983 where he played football and was a standout wrestler. After High School he briefly attended Wright State University and the University of Toledo before transferring to Bowling Green State University where in 1992 he earned a bachelor's degree in architectural and environment design technology and married his college sweetheart, Margaret (Margo) Maness.
He served in the Army National Guard before signing up for the ROTC program at BGSU and was commissioned into the Field Artillery as a Distinguished Military Graduate. In 2002, he earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Syracuse University.
Colonel Thomas Belkofer was an 18 year veteran of the United States Army. His operational troop leading assignments included Company Fire Support Officer, Platoon Leader and Battalion Adjutant for 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery at Fort Hood, Texas; and Battalion Fire Support Officer and Battery Commander for Alpha Battery, 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery. His leadership duties included Fort Carson, Colorado, Fort Meade, Maryland, The Pentagon, Vicenza, Italy, and most recently, Fort Drum, New York.
He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2005-2006 as Resource Manager for Office of Security Cooperation in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In his career he was awarded the Legion of Merit (Posthumous), Bronze Star (1 Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart (Posthumous), Meritorious Service Award (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Commendation Medal (1 Oak Leaf Cluster), Army Achievement Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terror Service Ribbon, Humanitarian Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Ribbon, Air Assault Badge, Parachutist Badge, the Army Staff Identification Badge, NATO Medal (Posthumous), and Combat Action Badge (Posthumous).
He led a life of honor and was known as a man who loved his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, his family, his country, his Army and his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes, which he proclaimed wherever he was stationed. In Afghanistan in 2005, he could be found awake in the middle of the night so that he wouldn't miss a Buckeye football game.
Surviving is his loving wife, Margo (Maness) Belkofer; daughters, Alyssa, age 15, and Ashley, age 11; parents, Donald and Sharon Belkofer; brothers, Don (Cathy) Belkofer and Doug Belkofer; father in-law, William (Eleanor) Maness; mother in-law, Pauline Maness. Also surviving are many, aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws.
Family and friends may visit at the Sujkowski Funeral Home of Rossford, 830 Lime City Rd. on Friday, May 28, 2010 from 2 to 8 PM. Funeral Services will be held on Saturday, May 29, 2010 at 10:30am at Cedar Creek Church, 29129 Lime City Rd., Perrysburg, Ohio. Interment will take place in Arlington National Cemetery. The family suggests those wishing to make a memorial contribution in Colonel Thomas Belkofer's name to please consider Military Ministries #2283732, Campus Crusade for Christ, Attn: Contributions, PO Box 628222, Orlando, Florida 32862-8222. To leave condolences for the family please visit www.sujkowskirossford.com
Posted: 7 June 2010 Updated: 15 June 2010 Updated: 7 August 2010
Photo By Eileen Horan, July 2010
Photo Courtesy of Eileen Horan, June 2010