Fort Leavenworth officer killed
Colonel’s Humvee hit by improvised explosive device in Baghdad
Fort Leavenworth Army Col. Thomas H. Felts Sr. didn't have to serve in Iraq. In January, he left Fort Leavenworth and volunteered for the tour.
On Tuesday, Nov. 14, Felts died of injuries he suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee in Baghdad.
Felts, of Sandston, Va., was a Senior Service College Fellow of the Advanced Operational Arts Studies Fellowship at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth before his deployment.
Peter Schifferle, Felts' friend and colleague, described Felts as "optimistic and positive."
He said the officer would be missed, both as a military leader and a family man.
"I've seen a lot of students go through here, but he made an impression on me very early on," said Schifferle, director of the fellowship program. "He was first and foremost a father and a husband. He had a very good balance between his duties as a father, husband and soldier."
Felts, 45, served as Senior Team Leader of 1-6 Military Transition Team, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.
His military career spanned 27 years, but until January, he had never been in combat operations.
Schifferle said Felts, who would have taught a majors course at the School of Advanced Military Studies next year, believed the experience in Iraq would make him a better instructor and leader, so he volunteered to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"He did an excellent job of leading his peers," Schifferle said. "He always wanted to do the right thing from his own perspective and the perspective of the folks he was trying to lead. He cared what others thought."
A memorial service for Felts was conducted at the fort Friday, Nov. 17, at the Main Post Chapel.
Felts' widow, Kim Felts, and her brother met with the news media hours later.
John Allen Waldrop III, of Williamsburg, Va., read a statement about his brother-in-law and friend.
"Colonel Felts dedicated his life to the service of God, his family and his country. He made a huge difference in the lives of all those that he touched. He demonstrated that conviction by volunteering to go to Iraq. He knew the dangers of being in harm's way, yet he remained committed to securing the future of our own children by defeating forces of hatred and violence and showing people what is possible if they embrace tolerance and peace," Waldrop said.
Thomas Felts also leaves behind the couple's four children: Sara, 19, LeAnna, 17, Rebekah, 13, and Thomas Jr., 11.
"They know their dad, and they know the principles he brought them up to believe in. They stand behind him, and we're very sad right now, but we'll get through this, day-by-day, hour-by-hour sometimes," Kim Felts said.
Although Thomas Felts was a world away, his dedication to his wife and children was constant, Waldrop said.
"He was a dedicated family man. He was dedicated to his walk with Christ. He was deeply involved with his church life, along with his family," he said.
The family maintained contact on an almost daily basis through the Internet.
"They were able to see him," Waldrop said. "They were able to share parts of their lives with him, and he remained an active part of their life, even on deployment."
Kim Felts said the family arrived at the fort in August 2005 and also lived there from 1996 to 1998. The couple married in 1984.
"I have been overwhelmed by the calls, the e-mails, just the outpouring of that family and the relationships we've made over the years. People came from Arizona, I've had calls from Brazil. It's just overwhelming, it really is, the outpouring and the way they've surrounded me and my family and taken care of us during this time," she said.
Schifferle said Kim Felts had shown enormous strength since learning of her husband's death.
"She has been stronger than a lot of other people have been around here," he said. "She has smiles for everyone else. How she does that, I don't know."
Thomas Felts is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, the Military Officer Advanced Course, CGSC, and the School of Advanced Military Studies, where he earned a Master of Military Arts and Sciences degree.
Kim Felts said funeral services for her husband were scheduled for today, Nov. 22, at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va. Internment will be at the Seven Pines National Cemetery near Sandston, Va.