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First Name: Thomas

Last Name: Walkup

Birthplace: Philadelphia, PA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Alva

Date of Birth: 06 April 1978

Date of Death: 23 November 2003

Rank: Staff Sergeant

Years Served:
Thomas Alva Walkup, Jr.

•  Afghanistan War (Operation Enduring Freedom) (2001 - present)


Thomas Alva Walkup, Jr.
Staff Sergeant, U. S. Air Force
Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan

Thomas Alva Walkup, Jr. was born on 6 April 1978 in Philadelphia, PA. Thomas graduated from Millville High School in 1996, where he played on the junior varsity baseball team.

Military Service

Thomas enlisted in the Air Force at 18.

On 23 November 2003, Walkup was a Staff Sergeant assigned to the 20th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, FL, which was deployed in Afghanistan. The 20th Special Operations Squadron typically conducts low-level penetration operations into enemy territory, providing air support for ground troops and resupplying Special Forces units.

That day, Walkup was serving as flight engineer onboard an MH-53 Pave Low helicopter conducting combat operations for 'Operation Mountain Resolve' when it crashed nine miles east of Bagram Air Base. A compressor problem caused one of the two engines on the Pave Low to stall, leaving it with one engine operating and too much weight to carry in the thin mountain air. The pilots unsuccessfully attempted to jettison the auxiliary tanks. Then the other engine stalled while they attempted an emergency landing. With all power lost, the helicopter fell from an altitude of about 200 feet onto an uneven river bank where it rolled over and burst into flames. Somehow, eight people managed to survive.

Medals and Awards

Purple Heart
Meritorious Service Medal

Death and Burial

Staff Sergeant Thomas Alva Walkup, Jr. was killed in action on 23 November 2003 while on a combat mission. Four other men were also killed in the crash.

Two funerals were held for Thomas Walkup. At his first funeral service, mementos and photos of Thomas were on display. Flanking the opposite side of his coffin was his flight helmet, camouflage gear, and volunteer firefighter badge carefully arranged. Bearing the Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal, his freshly-pressed military uniform hung along one side of his flag-draped coffin. Photographs on display showed the many faces of Thomas - one with him grinning with a rubber glove on his head, vacationing with his wife in Mexico, and sporting a Happy New Year hat and merrily blowing on a party favor. He also loved to go camping and was a volunteer firefighter with the Holley-Navarre Fire Department in Florida.

Everyone remembered how much fun he was and that he was usually smiling. Kayla Murphy, 14, whom Thomas occasionally baby-sat said, "He was the fun baby-sitter." She recalled one time when he accidentally locked them outside her home and he had to break his way back in thru the kitchen window. But there was also another side of Thomas, the military side. He was the stoic professional who took very seriously what he did. In a recent email sent to his family he said, "I will fly with two American flags in my tactical bag, one for each of you. I will continue to fly these flags with me through all I encounter, then hopefully one day I'll get the chance to give them to you personally."

The second funeral, with full military honors, took place on 21 January 2004 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA. An honor guard preceded a horse-drawn caisson containing a single flag-draped coffin with the remains of the five servicemen killed in the crash. Because their remains were commingled, the five men were buried in a single coffin with a single headstone. The grave is located in Section 60, Site 1821. The names of the five men (in the order they are listed on the headstone) are:

Sergeant Major Phillip R. Albert, U.S. Army
Master Sergeant William J. Kerwood, U.S. Air Force
Staff Sergeant Thomas A. Walkup, Jr., U.S. Air Force
Technical Sergeant Howard A. Walters, U.S. Air Force
Major Steven Plumhoff, U.S. Air Force

He is survived by his wife, Staff Sergeant Carissa Walkup.

Honoree ID: 2209   Created by: MHOH




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