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COMMUNITY, FAMILY REMEMBER IRAQ CASUALTY

May 3, 2004 -Friends and family, from St. Thomas to Texas, shared memories of Staff Sgt. Kendall Thomas this weekend. The soldier, who died in Iraq last week, was raised in the Paul M. Pearson Gardens Housing community on St. Thomas. His family has resided there for over thirty years. His mother, Edris Stephens, who still resides there, but was visiting in Georgia this week said, with tears, "I love him, but I guess God loved him more."
The mother of one of his neighborhood friends said Thomas was a favorite son for everyone in the community. Shirley Van Beverhoudt said, "Everyone in the community is shaken up. We feel so awful. He usually calls my daughter. He just said he was making the best of it."
Thomas was an infantry gunner with the 382nd Field Artillery out of Fort Hood, Texas. He had been in the Army for 16 years. An Army spokesperson at Fort Hood confirmed Saturday that Thomas's death was caused by a vehicle accident in Iraq during duty. Details of the accident would not be released until the military has completed its investigation.
Both Thomas and his wife Pamela, originally of Louisiana, were deployed to Iraq. Kendall was deployed in January and Pamela in March. They were stationed at different camps.
Pamela's mother, Eunice White, said Friday she had received a call from her daughter, who was in Amsterdam at the time awaiting a flight to the United States. Though a military envoy was escorting her, the body was not on the flight with her.
Saturday morning, Angela Brokenberry, the older sister of Pamela, said her sister had returned to Texas Friday evening and was in a state of grief.
Thomas had joined the Police Athletic League in Pearson Gardens one summer and that triggered his desire for military service. Thomas was a member of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp at Charlotte Amalie High School for four years.
Upon graduation from JROTC, he flew to Puerto Rico to take the test for the Marine Corp, but there were no immediate career slots available, so he called home to tell his mother he was going to visit the Army recruiters because "he did not want to come back home to the ghetto."
Building 21 and Building 26 Pearson Gardens were the homes for Osmond Thomas, Edris Stephens and their seven children. Stephens raised her children alone after the death of Osmond in 1992.
Both Osmond and Edris were born on Tortola. Osmond was a lineman at the Water and Power Authority and Edris was a cook at both of Wayne Aspinall and CAHS.
"He grew up in the ghetto," said his brother Kenval Thomas, a lineman at the WAPA. "He died doing what he wanted. We can't get too upset. He served his country. He is a good role model to all of us." Kenval is one year younger than Kendall.
Kendall attended Lockhardt Elementary, Wayne Aspinall Junior High School, now Addelita Cancryn; and then CAHS.
"We were the first set of people to graduate in our area. All of us did. When we got home with our report card, the first thing my mother would look at is the tardy and absent," said Kenval. He said his mother proudly displays all of her children's graduation photos on a wall in the Pearson Gardens home.
"All of us talk to each other every week, sometimes twice a week. We are not like other families. We are very close," said Kenval.
Deborah Meade, a childhood friend of Kendall's, said "Kenny" as he was known, was always running from place to place. He played baseball in Pearson Gardens and ran track at school. He graduated with the CAHS Class of 1987, the year before her. Deborah's family lived in building 30 for over 30 years, too.
" He always had a bright smile on his face. If you asked him for a favor, he never refused. He was very soft spoken and friendly. That was my best friend till today." She said she had a childhood crush on Kendall when they were in elementary school.
"That was my boy," said Deborah. "Monday he came to me as clear as day. I thought of him. It was so strange."
She said she first got the word of his death when a friend met her at the Carnival J'ouvert morning tramp on Thursday.
She said, "He was planning to be home for Carnival, but then called me to say he could not make it, but would bring home his new wife in the summer."
"We were very tight. There are just some things you want to keep to yourself. He was just a wonderful, loving person," said Deborah. Her mother could be heard in the background echoing the sentiments.
Calvin Donovan, another of Kendall's brothers, said, during a telephone interview Friday, he was overcome with grief and could not talk much at the time.
Outside Atlanta, Ga., Alfred "Freddy" Blyden, another brother, said Kendall was upbeat about serving for 20 years. He had reenlisted after his Gulf War deployment.
"I'll miss him very much, that's all I can say." He said he called Kendall's children in Germany and they were in shock. "The information is so sketchy. We are just waiting for Pamela to arrive."
Eunice White, his mother in-law from Louisiana, said from Kendall's Kaleen, Texas, home that she and her husband were extremely shaken. "He was a big part of our family. I have never met a young man so well mannered. He calls me mom and my mother grandma."
"That's my one and only son. To know him, was to love him," she said tearfully. "He was so good to my daughter."
White said Kendall and Pamela celebrated their first anniversary last October.
She added, "He would just buy her flowers and place them around the home. That's just how he was." Casualty Assistance at Fort Hood Officer Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Wright was in contact with the family to assist with insurance, funeral arrangements, and survivor benefits. "I am just here to assist her with anything she likes," he said.
Wright said Thomas's remains would return to Texas within five days. "It is a very honorable process." He said Thomas would receive the Bronze Star.
Funeral arrangements will be at Heavenly Gates Funeral Home in Shreveport, La. The date of the service is pending on Kendall's return to Texas. A memorial service will be held on St. Thomas when his mother feels able to return.
Thomas's mother's voice cracked as she told The Source of her hardship raising six boys and one girl, after her husband died. "I tried to be a happy mother. I took care of all of them."
She said, when she had spoken to Kendall last Sunday, he had said, "Mommy, everything is going to be alright." Stephens said, if she knew that was going to be the last time she would speak to him; she would not have hung up the phone. "He was a loving sweet boy."
Stephens said, even though she would want her son near her in St. Thomas, she felt her daughter in-law and her family loved him just as well as she did, and would treat him honorably.
Besides his immediate family and wife, Kendall is survived by his former wife and two daughters Danika and Keysha in Germany. Kendall and Pamela have no children.
Linda Todman, state family program coordinator for the National Guard, said her organization stands ready to assist Stephens with any help she may need. "Whatever she desires of us we will be there to connect her with the resource agencies. We are not just there for our Guard members only, but all military personnel and their families."
In April, Lance Cpl. Shane Goldman of the Marine Corp died of injuries from hostile fire while serving his second tour of duty in Iraq. He was the son of George Goldman who lives on St. Croix.
For a list of U.S. fatalities in Iraq, visit "Faces of the Fallen" at www.washingtonpost.com for casualties. As of Sunday May 2, Thomas had not been added to the list.

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May 3, 2004 -Friends and family, from St. Thomas to Texas, shared memories of Staff Sgt. Kendall Thomas this weekend. The soldier, who died in Iraq last week, was raised in the Paul M. Pearson Gardens Housing community on St. Thomas. His family has resided there for over thirty years. His mother, Edris Stephens, who still resides there, but was visiting in Georgia this week said, with tears, "I love him, but I guess God loved him more."
The mother of one of his neighborhood friends said Thomas was a favorite son for everyone in the community. Shirley Van Beverhoudt said, "Everyone in the community is shaken up. We feel so awful. He usually calls my daughter. He just said he was making the best of it."
Thomas was an infantry gunner with the 382nd Field Artillery out of Fort Hood, Texas. He had been in the Army for 16 years. An Army spokesperson at Fort Hood confirmed Saturday that Thomas's death was caused by a vehicle accident in Iraq during duty. Details of the accident would not be released until the military has completed its investigation.
Both Thomas and his wife Pamela, originally of Louisiana, were deployed to Iraq. Kendall was deployed in January and Pamela in March. They were stationed at different camps.
Pamela's mother, Eunice White, said Friday she had received a call from her daughter, who was in Amsterdam at the time awaiting a flight to the United States. Though a military envoy was escorting her, the body was not on the flight with her.
Saturday morning, Angela Brokenberry, the older sister of Pamela, said her sister had returned to Texas Friday evening and was in a state of grief.
Thomas had joined the Police Athletic League in Pearson Gardens one summer and that triggered his desire for military service. Thomas was a member of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp at Charlotte Amalie High School for four years.
Upon graduation from JROTC, he flew to Puerto Rico to take the test for the Marine Corp, but there were no immediate career slots available, so he called home to tell his mother he was going to visit the Army recruiters because "he did not want to come back home to the ghetto."
Building 21 and Building 26 Pearson Gardens were the homes for Osmond Thomas, Edris Stephens and their seven children. Stephens raised her children alone after the death of Osmond in 1992.
Both Osmond and Edris were born on Tortola. Osmond was a lineman at the Water and Power Authority and Edris was a cook at both of Wayne Aspinall and CAHS.
"He grew up in the ghetto," said his brother Kenval Thomas, a lineman at the WAPA. "He died doing what he wanted. We can't get too upset. He served his country. He is a good role model to all of us." Kenval is one year younger than Kendall.
Kendall attended Lockhardt Elementary, Wayne Aspinall Junior High School, now Addelita Cancryn; and then CAHS.
"We were the first set of people to graduate in our area. All of us did. When we got home with our report card, the first thing my mother would look at is the tardy and absent," said Kenval. He said his mother proudly displays all of her children's graduation photos on a wall in the Pearson Gardens home.
"All of us talk to each other every week, sometimes twice a week. We are not like other families. We are very close," said Kenval.
Deborah Meade, a childhood friend of Kendall's, said "Kenny" as he was known, was always running from place to place. He played baseball in Pearson Gardens and ran track at school. He graduated with the CAHS Class of 1987, the year before her. Deborah's family lived in building 30 for over 30 years, too.
" He always had a bright smile on his face. If you asked him for a favor, he never refused. He was very soft spoken and friendly. That was my best friend till today." She said she had a childhood crush on Kendall when they were in elementary school.
"That was my boy," said Deborah. "Monday he came to me as clear as day. I thought of him. It was so strange."
She said she first got the word of his death when a friend met her at the Carnival J'ouvert morning tramp on Thursday.
She said, "He was planning to be home for Carnival, but then called me to say he could not make it, but would bring home his new wife in the summer."
"We were very tight. There are just some things you want to keep to yourself. He was just a wonderful, loving person," said Deborah. Her mother could be heard in the background echoing the sentiments.
Calvin Donovan, another of Kendall's brothers, said, during a telephone interview Friday, he was overcome with grief and could not talk much at the time.
Outside Atlanta, Ga., Alfred "Freddy" Blyden, another brother, said Kendall was upbeat about serving for 20 years. He had reenlisted after his Gulf War deployment.
"I'll miss him very much, that's all I can say." He said he called Kendall's children in Germany and they were in shock. "The information is so sketchy. We are just waiting for Pamela to arrive."
Eunice White, his mother in-law from Louisiana, said from Kendall's Kaleen, Texas, home that she and her husband were extremely shaken. "He was a big part of our family. I have never met a young man so well mannered. He calls me mom and my mother grandma."
"That's my one and only son. To know him, was to love him," she said tearfully. "He was so good to my daughter."
White said Kendall and Pamela celebrated their first anniversary last October.
She added, "He would just buy her flowers and place them around the home. That's just how he was." Casualty Assistance at Fort Hood Officer Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Wright was in contact with the family to assist with insurance, funeral arrangements, and survivor benefits. "I am just here to assist her with anything she likes," he said.
Wright said Thomas's remains would return to Texas within five days. "It is a very honorable process." He said Thomas would receive the Bronze Star.
Funeral arrangements will be at Heavenly Gates Funeral Home in Shreveport, La. The date of the service is pending on Kendall's return to Texas. A memorial service will be held on St. Thomas when his mother feels able to return.
Thomas's mother's voice cracked as she told The Source of her hardship raising six boys and one girl, after her husband died. "I tried to be a happy mother. I took care of all of them."
She said, when she had spoken to Kendall last Sunday, he had said, "Mommy, everything is going to be alright." Stephens said, if she knew that was going to be the last time she would speak to him; she would not have hung up the phone. "He was a loving sweet boy."
Stephens said, even though she would want her son near her in St. Thomas, she felt her daughter in-law and her family loved him just as well as she did, and would treat him honorably.
Besides his immediate family and wife, Kendall is survived by his former wife and two daughters Danika and Keysha in Germany. Kendall and Pamela have no children.
Linda Todman, state family program coordinator for the National Guard, said her organization stands ready to assist Stephens with any help she may need. "Whatever she desires of us we will be there to connect her with the resource agencies. We are not just there for our Guard members only, but all military personnel and their families."
In April, Lance Cpl. Shane Goldman of the Marine Corp died of injuries from hostile fire while serving his second tour of duty in Iraq. He was the son of George Goldman who lives on St. Croix.
For a list of U.S. fatalities in Iraq, visit "Faces of the Fallen" at www.washingtonpost.com for casualties. As of Sunday May 2, Thomas had not been added to the list.