EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
Why would someone give his life for others? It’s a question many ask. As U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II stood before those gathered March 1 at Fort Carson, Colorado, to honor an Army major from Llano, he answered that question with one word.
Though the general was talking about why fellow soldiers and family members had gathered that day to remember Major Thomas G. Bostick Jr., he may very well have been describing why the 37-year-old put himself between heavy enemy fire and his own men on an Afghan mountainside on July 27, 2007. His heroic actions cost him his life. He was initially awarded the Silver Star, but the Army upgraded the honor to the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest medal for valor the U.S. military awards. Only the Medal of Honor is higher.
“When you boil it down, it is love,” Funk said about why so many were gathered during the Distinguished Service Cross ceremony for Bostick. “Love for one another, love for family, love for being part of great teams, and love of country. On love today, this group gathers to honor a great American patriot who loved all the groups. These groups loved him back.”
Bostick was serving as commander of Bulldog Troop — Company B, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team — in July 2007 in Afghanistan. The troop had met with local leaders and were returning to a forward operating base when Bostick learned of a large number of enemy fighters approaching them in an ambush.
Bostick immediately deployed mortar fire and called in close air support to suppress the enemy, according to the citation.
As the Llano major was directing fire, the enemy targeted his position with small arms, but Bostick continued to orchestrate the attack, even though it put him at risk. Bulldog Troop and air support initially knocked back the enemy.
Once the initial threat was “neutralized,” the major moved the troops to a forward position to retrieve three casualties, but the enemy manage to regroup and reinforce.
The enemy fighters attacked Bostick and the unit’s forward elements from three sides. Again, the major was able to direct fire, which allowed his lead element to find better positions and cover.
“As the fire on his position intensified, Major Bostick positioned himself between the enemy and his own exposed soldiers, who were navigating the mountainous terrain, and engaged the enemy with accurate fire,” the Distinguished Service Cross citation states. “While in this exposed position and under continuous small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire, he was mortally wounded.”
His actions allowed his soldiers to find cover and survive the attack, according to the citation.
“He willingly sacrificed his life so they could live,” the initial Silver Star citation states in describing Bostick’s actions that day.
Staff Sgt. William R. Fritsche, 23, was also killed during the firefight. Thirteen other American soldiers were wounded.
During the March 1 ceremony, Funk said a person like Bostick leaves a legacy that’s carried on through family and fellow soldiers.
In April 2018, paratroopers with the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Brigade awarded the first Bostick Cup for excellence. The cup is presented to troops who “demonstrate outstanding performance.”
Funk said Bostick’s leadership, courage, compassion, and love lives on through the soldiers he led and mentored as well as his family. Bostick’s wife, Jennifer, their children, his parents, and several other family members attended the ceremony.
Bostick’s brother, retired Master Sgt. Bobby Bostick, who was serving in Iraq at the time of his brother’s death, accepted the Distinguished Service Cross on behalf of the family.
Thomas Bostick Jr. served on two tours of Afghanistan, deployed to Iraq, and served during Operation Just Cause, the 1989 U.S. mission to remove Gen. Manuel Noriega from power in Panama. He was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.