ORANGEBURG, S.C. - Soldiers, veterans, community leaders and family members came together to recognize a fallen Soldier on Feb. 21, 2015. The U.S. Army Reserve Center in Orangeburg was memorialized in honor of Staff Sgt. Anthony Orlando Thompson, an Orangeburg native, who died in 2003 during combat operations in Tikrit, Iraq.
The 81st Regional Support Command hosted the ceremony at the facility which opened in October, 2014. During her address to the crowd of over 100 people, Maj. Gen. Janet Cobb, the commander of the 81st RSC, talked about the importance of remembering all of those who gave so much in defense of our freedoms.
"Long after we who are here today are gone, those who travel past this place will say, 'He must have been something," said Cobb. "A building named after him, Soldier, Hero, a son of Orangeburg, a son of South Carolina. He really must have been a special man.' Yes, he was special. Because he volunteered to wear his nation's cloth, special because of who he was and is to his family, and special to his comrades, his buddies and his nation because of his honor and sacrifice."
Thompson's surviving family members who attended the ceremony saw the event as bitter sweet. Jaykwon Thompson, who was only 4 years old when his father was killed, said that he had already come to terms with his father's death, but the day's events had stirred up many emotions he didn't even know he had left.
Standing in front of the plaque that adorns his father's name, which will be displayed at the Reserve Center, Thompson said. "I never would have thought that my dad would get all this and I'm really grateful for that. I'm honored and I'm pretty sure he's honored up in heaven about this. Today was just a great day."
Others who attended the ceremony understood the significance and honor bestowed to Thompson's memory.
"[The] community needs this to build [its] pride and give it a process to begin to heal," said Tommy Olds, an attendee of the event and commander of the South Carolina Combat Veterans Group, VA Hospital, Columbia, South Carolina. "This isn't a building, it's a memorial. Even though it's history, it's a reminder that people are still suffering."
Olds said even though the sacrifice of a Soldier is great, the sacrifice of their family is even greater. He said the Reserve center was a monument to keep Thompson alive and to keep the sacrifices of all Soldiers alive.
The Reserve center was named after Thompson after a nomination submitted to the 81st RSC by Sgt. 1st Class Calvin Snell, senior human resources noncommissioned officer, 415th Chemical Brigade, Orangeburg.
Snell's previous commander told him to nominate someone to name the building when the building was being built in 2012. Snell knew the Thompson family because he grew up with one of the older brothers.
"It felt great being a part of the memorialization, because Anthony paid the ultimate sacrifice," said Snell. "He only did seven years and made Staff Sergeant, that's impressive and means he was doing awesome things in the military. It was the best fit that a hero from Orangeburg has a building named after him."
Ceremonies, dedication, memorials are all ways Soldiers, the Army and the country remember the service members that sacrificed their lives in service to this nation.
"He's smiling seeing what the Reserve, the people of this town, this community and what that young man did for him to keep his memory alive, because there's a lot of them from Orangeburg who died and nobody even know their names," said Olds.
When Soldiers wear this uniform, Olds said they are doing something 1 percent of the people in this country do, because 99 percent of them don't serve.
He said today told the human side of life and that's what needs to be heard.
The 46,000 square foot facility replaces the former Orangeburg Army Reserve Center located on John Calhoun Drive and will be home to the 41th Chemical Company and the 414th Transportation Company.