KIA February 7, 2007
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan
Cpl. Thomas Saba died February 7, 2007, in the Iraq province of Anbar. Cpl. Saba was on a helicopter mission to evacuate casualties when their CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter went down. Also killed in the accident were 1Lt. Jared M. Landaker, Sgt. Travis D. Pfister, Capt. Jennifer J. Harris, Sgt. James R. Tijerina, Navy HM1 Gilbert Minjares, Jr., and Navy HM3 Manuel A. Ruiz. Cpl. Saba had been in Iraq for just 2 weeks.
Cpl. Thomas Saba could have received his honorable discharge from the Marines in April of 2006. But instead, he chose to extend his tour for seven months so that he could serve with his comrades in Iraq. Thomas grew up for most of his life in Staten Island, NY, but relocated to his parents home in Toms River in early 2002. Soon after, in April of that year, he enlisted in the Marines after having lost friends in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Along with his parents, Anthony and Barbara, Thomas is also survived by his brother and two sisters. His family remembers him as a doting uncle, a practical joker who nonetheless was quick to help people, and a man who died standing up for what he believed in. “He was our everyday hero,” said Thomas’ sister, Laura. “He always made you laugh,” added his other sister, Mary Ellen.
The last time Thomas was on leave, Laura drove her brother to Newark Airport when it was time for him to depart. Because his flight kept getting cancelled, she brought him to her home for the day’s stay-over. She recalled that in that time her brother explained to her why he wanted to serve in Iraq. “What we are protecting is the freedom to speak up,” Thomas said, “I don’t want me nieces and nephews to be afraid to go to a Yankee game.” Laura’s memory continued as she recalled a woman at the airport helping Thomas with his flight who had a son serving his third tour in Iraq, and asked Thomas why he was going there. Thomas pointed to the flag in the American Airlines logo and said, “You know what they say: ‘These colors don’t run.’”
Cpl. Thomas Saba was 30 years old from Toms River, New Jersey.
Original portrait was delivered to his parents May 12, 2012, during the Marine Aviation Centennial Banquet held in Orange Beach, Alabama.