AFGHANISTAN — A Twentynine Palms-based Marine was killed in combat in the Helmand province Wednesday, June 25, the Department of Defense has announced.
Sgt. Thomas Z. Spitzer, 23, came from New Braunfels, Texas, and was on his second deployment to Afghanistan.
He was a veteran of the Sangin Valley campaign, according to a memorial on a Facebook page for troops who served in that area of Afghanistan, where fighting against the Taliban was especially fierce and deadly.
“He always was so funny yet super serious when it came to being a Marine,” one member, who said he knew Spitzer in infantry training, commented. “Until Valhalla.”
Spitzer was a mortarman assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Aug. 17, 2009.
His death came almost exactly three years after the June 28, 2011, death of his friend and fellow New Braunfels Marine Lance Cpl. John Farias.
Farias died in a firefight with the Taliban in the Sangin Valley, according to his hometown newspaper, the New Braunfels Herald Zeitung.
At Canyon High School, both Spitzer and Farias had played defensive end on the football team and were members of the weight-lifting team, Farias’ father told the newspaper.
“Thomas was a great kid,” Felix Farias said. “Always smiling.”
That smile was a common theme with those who remembered the Marine.
“He was a great guy (with) a great heart. And his smile could turn anyone’s day around,” one person remembered on the newspaper’s Facebook page.
Spitzer had gotten engaged on New Year’s Day, Felix Farias said.
Spitzer’s awards included the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and NATO Medal-International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan.
In his memory, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered that flags be flown at half-staff over the Capitol.