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Tom F. Allison



Date of Birth:

Date of Death:

October 28, 1979

February 22, 2002

Place of Death:


Cemetery Location:

Grave site:


Tahoma National Cemetery

Kent, WA

Sec 6 Site 36

TAHOMA NATIONAL CEMETERY — A Chinook helicopter flew slowly overhead, a crew member's arm extended out the window in salute. Below, a bugler played taps as a seven-man color guard meticulously tucked and folded a U.S. flag in memory of Sgt. Thomas F. Allison, a member of an elite Army regiment killed in a helicopter crash in the Philippines.

His body still lost at sea, there was no casket, only a triangular oak chest to hold the flag presented to Allison's family by members of his former unit. Pinned to the black velvet lining inside were his ribbons and medals.

The Tacoma-born soldier was one of eight crew members and two Air Force para-rescuers killed when their helicopter crashed Feb. 22 off Negros Island in the southern Philippines. They were part of a 660-member American force training Philippine soldiers to fight Muslim extremist guerrillas.

Allison, 23, was a member of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, a helicopter team that specializes in ferrying combat troops under cover of night.

The cause of the crash has not been determined, and only three of the bodies have been recovered.

Sgt. 1st Class Kurt Kruszynski of the Fort Campbell, Ky.-based 160th held back tears yesterday as he presented the flag to Allison's parents, Buddy and Patricia Allison of Roy, a small town south of Tacoma.

"This flag is presented by a grateful nation, as a token of our appreciation for honorable and faithful services rendered by your loved one," he said. Then, softly echoing the 160th's motto, he said, "Night Stalkers don't quit."

Hundreds attended the quiet ceremony among the cemetery's firs and bare honey locusts that frame views of Mount Rainier. The family's pastor, Douglas Good of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Milton, was the only person who spoke.

The service was made all the more somber by news that the war in Afghanistan has entered a more perilous phase, with U.S. troops engaged in ground operations. A number of American soldiers were reported killed yesterday when a low-flying CH-47 Chinook helicopter — the same kind in which Allison was killed — was hit by enemy fire during a U.S.-led assault against al-Qaida and Taliban fighters. Two other U.S. soldiers were killed in the fighting over the weekend.

"The CH-47 is a very tight-knit group," Kruszynski said after the service. "There's not that many of us, so whenever there's an accident, it hits home, and chances are we know somebody on board."

Kruszynski met Allison in 1999 while the two were stationed at Fort Campbell. They worked together in the unit's aviation life-support equipment shop before Allison transferred to a different group within the 160th in Korea, Kruszynski said.

"He was an easygoing guy," Kruszynski recalled yesterday. "He was the kind of guy you could really trust. If you assigned him to do something, you knew it would get done. You could tell he had a good upbringing."

Allison was the second U.S. soldier killed in the war on terrorism to be buried at Tahoma near Covington. The first, Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Chapman, was buried here in January after becoming the first U.S. soldier to die by enemy fire in Afghanistan. Allison's family has declined to talk to the media, but in a statement released through Fort Lewis, his parents said:

"Sgt. Thomas Ferrell Allison was a young man with a charm and wit that would bring through any adversity and a contagious smile that touched all. He was so proud to serve his country in one of our military's most elite forces."

The family also said "the center of Tom's life has always been Jesus Christ."

Allison's faith was so strong, his family said, that when they recently expressed concerns for his safety, he tried to reassure them by saying: "Some of us will get to heaven first."

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