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Fallen Yuma soldier honored with Armed Forces Park plaque
A black granite plaque bearing the name of a Yuma soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country was hung Thursday morning during a somber ceremony at the city's Armed Forces Park.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Alejo Thompson, 30, was just more than two months into his second overseas deployment in the war on terrorism when he was killed in May when his unit came under fire while on patrol in Afghanistan.
“I am very grateful for all the support the city of Yuma and (Yuma County Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee) has provided to our family during this difficult time. Thank you so much on behalf of my family,” mother Guadalupe Thompson said in a prepared statement read by Yuma Proving Ground spokesman Chuck Wullenjohn.
About 50 family, friends, community leaders, military personnel, veterans and complete strangers watched as Thompson's father, Alejo Valdenebro, placed his son's plaque on one of the park's outer walls.
YPG Commander Col. Reed Young presided over the ceremony, saying it was an honor to be remembering Thompson's service in this way.
“Our appreciation and our sorrow for our fallen brother goes out to the family,” Young said. “This is a small example of a very small token of appreciation that we can extend to our fallen service members. So it is with great pleasure and great honor that we have anything to do with this event today.
“There is family, there are mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who all don't have their service member anymore, and there is no amount of money or ceremony that can replace that.”
“I think this is the absolute minimum we can do to recognize the people who sacrifice for our liberty and justice and protect our country,” said Yuma Deputy Mayor Paul Johnson during the ceremony. “My condolences to the family.”
A Yuma native, Thompson was assigned to Colorado's Fort Carson's A Company of the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.
During his nearly 12-year career, Thompson earned numerous commendations, including the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one Campaign Star, the Iraq Campaign Medal with one Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Thompson, who joined the Army in Sept. 19, 2000, was also posthumously given the Purple Heart and recommended for a Bronze Star.
He first deployed in March 2003 to Iraq, a tour that lasted more than 10 months. His unit, part of the 3,500-soldier 4th Brigade Combat Team, had been in Afghanistan since March 6.
According to Fort Carson, the brigade is patrolling an area centered on the city of Jalalabad and training Afghan troops. The Parwan province, on the western edge of the brigade's area of responsibility, sits between Kabul and Jalalabad.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.