Lance considered himself a typical country boy, walking along life’s path while whistling to Hank Williams, Jr.’s song “A Country Boy Can Survive.” He always had this ornery smile with a gleam in his eyes. It was that look of loving life and all the excitement life had to give. Lance loved his family, friends, and Country. His smile told so much about him.
His mother remembers that five of Lance’s birthday cakes when he was young had military themes. Lance, his brothers, and cousins were obsessed with playing with guns, airplanes, adventure, and fighting the bad guys. They always wanted to be the good guys. It was no surprise to his friends or family when Lance enlisted a year early for the Marine Corps during his junior year at Eastbrook High School. Dedicated and determined to get started, Lance enlisted with two fellow Eastbrook graduates. They left for boot camp in September, 2001. Lance was then stationed with the 2nd Battalion 5th Marines (“2/5”) as a Field Radio Communications Operator at Camp Pendleton, California.
Lance’s first 7 month tour was the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He left for his second tour in Iraq the 1st of September, 2004. Lance was assigned to Weapons Company 2/5 at Hurricane Point (a former Saddam Hussein palace) in the city of Ar Ramadi, Al-Anbar Province, Iraq. During his last call home, on Friday, November 12, 2004, Lance stated he was good, but very tired. He stated that they had been going out about three or four times a day to look for the bad guys. In one of Lance’s last comments that day to his family he stated, “I’m here so everyone there can be safe at home.” Lance felt he was there so that all people (no matter where they lived) could have the freedom to do what they wanted to do, say the things they wanted to say, and be who they wanted to be. Lance told his family, “Freedom isn’t free, and we have a price to pay for it.” Lance was always “Gung Ho” about his beliefs; so much so he wore the “Gung Ho” symbol tattooed on his inner left wrist.
While the world was watching Fallujah, Americans were fighting and dying in bitter street-to-street battles with insurgents in other parts of Iraq. Kirk Spitzer (CBS News) was with 2/5 in Ramadi, the heart of the resistance, and spoke to Lance’s Company Commander. Captain Pat Rapicault had warned Spitzer that the enemy was adapting and sure enough, as the Marines got better at avoiding IED’s, the insurgents turned to homicide bombers. Then, late on November 15, as the Marines headed back to base, the enemy caught up with them. A homicide bomber pulled up alongside and in an instant Corporal Lance Thompson was dead, along with Captain Rapicault and Corporal Marc Ryan. One of Lance’s best friends while in Iraq was the gunner who rode with Lance every day. Lance Corporal Ben Nelson was severely injured but stated that the last thing he remembers that day was seeing a rocket-propelled grenade go off close to their truck. Nelson said he looked down at Lance who was looking up at him with his huge smile. That smile that always had the little orneriness stuck in there.
Lance was posthumously awarded a Navy and
Marine Corps Achievement Medal with the following citation:
Heroic achievement while serving as Company Radio Operator, Weapons Company, 2D Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II from 31 August to 15 November 2004. Corporal Thompson found himself in contact with the enemy almost on a daily basis. He was often thrust into intense small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fights. He never wavered; acting as the vehicle commander or passing information on the radio.
As the Radio Operator for the Company Commander, he was responsible for monitoring the entire battle and passing information to both the Company Commander and Maneuver Elements. His calm demeanor and accurate reporting was an asset to the entire company. Corporal Thompson also frequently dismounted in hostile areas and directly engaged the enemy. Despite the furious pace of operations, Corporal Thompson was responsible for maintaining the entire company’s communication suite of over 30 radios. Despite the great amount of work created by battle-damaged vehicles, the company never lacked effective communications. Corporal Thompson’s initiative, perseverance, and total dedication to duty reflected credit upon him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Given this 4th day of January 2005
Richard F. Natonski
Major General, U.S. Marine Corps
Commanding General, 1st Marine Division