Kenya Thomas, a member of the US Army Reserve and an ardent supporter of veterans rights issues, was named Fairhope’s Veteran of the Year for 2015 this week. Thomas served in the US Army Reserve from 1986 until 1997. She was assigned to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Fort Gordon, Georgia and the Signal Corps in Huntsville. She was awarded the Army Commendation Medal and two Army Achievement Medals.
Thomas is an active member of the Jess Andrews, Jr. Detachment of the Marine Corps League.
“Kenya is an inspiration,” said Jerry Cherne, former commandant. “Her support plays a vital role within our Detachment. She serves as Adjutant, is a member of the Ways and Means committee, a member of Board of Directors, and official local Toys for Tots Coordinator. She is always the first to volunteer for any event or work detail. She not only attends Detachment events, but is usually deeply involved in planning and organizing the events.”
As other honorees before her, Thomas says she is not worthy.
“It means so much to me, it’s hard to put into words,” she said. “Others who have won this award did so much more to serve their country. I served during Desert Storm but I’m not a combat veteran. I’m truly humbled.”
Even though she served in the Army, Thomas became a member of the Marine Corps League because her husband, Lew – the current commandant of the Detachment – and stepson, Evan, are Marines.
“I’ve always been interested in working with and helping veterans,” Thomas said. “When my son, Christian, was in the Boy Scouts, I volunteered to help them with community service projects that were military and veteran oriented, such as volunteering at the U.S.S. Alabama Battleship Park for Armed Forces Day or volunteering at the POW/MIA ceremony held in Montgomery. I think it’s important for the scouts to understand and get to know veterans.”
Mawk Arnold, a past Veteran of the Year for Fairhope, said Thomas encourages others to be more involved.
“Our League has become more involved and active because of her ongoing support and help,” Arnold said.
Along with her work with Toys for Tots, Thomas also led efforts to send pillows to Marines in Afghanistan and at Bethesda Naval Hospital and worked as a volunteer with Homes for Our Troops.
“When my stepson served in Afghanistan in 2011, one of his friends lost both legs, an arm, and part of the other arm,” she said. “I felt it was my duty to help him because my stepson came home okay.”
Thomas and her husband and son traveled to California to work on landscaping projects for the Marine’s home.
“He’s doing so well now,” she said. “He recently got married. I thought that if something had happened to my stepson, others would help, so this is important. It is just something I had to do.”
In addition to her volunteer work with the Marine Corps League and other military organizations, Thomas is employed as an ultrasound sonographer at The Infirmary in Mobile.
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