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SUNDAY, APRIL 20, 2014  01:44:02 PM

Thurman retires after nearly 40 years of service

Email   Print   Share By Heather Graham-Ashley, Sentinel News Editor
November 28, 2013 | News
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Gen. James Thurman, with a freshly pinned Distinguished Service Medal on his lapel, stands with his wife, Dee, at his retirement ceremony Friday at the III Corps Headquarters flagpole. Thurman recently relinquished command of United Nations Command, Republic of Korea – United States Combined Forces Command, and United States Forces Korea. Daniel Cernero, Sentinel Staff
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Gen. James Thurman and Gen. Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff, salute the colors during Thurman’s retirement ceremony Friday at the III Corps Headquarters flagpole. Daniel Cernero, Sentinel Staff
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Gen. Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff, gives remarks at the retirement ceremony for Gen. James Thurman Friday at the III Corps Headquarters flagpole. Daniel Cernero, Sentinel Staff
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Gen. James Thurman receives a United States flag from Gen. Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff, at Thurman’s retirement ceremony Friday at the III Corps Headquarters flagpole. Daniel Cernero, Sentinel Staff
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Gen. James Thurman sits with his Family at his retirement ceremony Friday at the III Corps Headquarters flagpole. Daniel Cernero, Sentinel Staff
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said Gen. James Thurman would retire when hell froze over.

His premonition seemed to come true as Thurman retired Friday after 38 years of service during a ceremony at the III Corps flagpole that was marked by freezing temperatures and icy winds.

During the ceremony, Odierno recalled Thurman as “someone you can rely on, trust his judgment on, and someone to tell it like it is.”

Sometimes telling it like it is was made more interesting by Thurman as Odierno recalled some of the more unusual expressions Thurman would use to make a point. From “that dog simply won’t hunt,” to “pig in a poke,” Marietta, Okla.-native Thurman was known to colorfully illustrate a point, but those points showed Thurman understood Soldiers and their needs, the Army chief said.

“J.D. Thurman is a trainer who understands what it takes to get our Soldiers ready for whatever we ask them to do,” Odierno said. “He’s there for you to accomplish what’s best for our Soldiers.”

Thurman worked closely with Odierno throughout his career, from assuming command of the then-Fort Hood-based 4th Infantry Division from the current Army chief, to providing Odierno no-nonsense advice about what Soldiers needed in Iraq.

Thurman and his wife, Dee, served Soldiers and advocated for them throughout their 38 years in the Army.

Dee Thurman was instrumental in the passage of the Hazlewood Act, known also as Dee’s Bill, which extends higher education benefits to the children of fallen or injured and totally disabled Texas veterans.

For the Thurmans, the Army was always a Family affair.

“This is a Family that’s been dedicated to service to this nation for a very long time,” Odierno said. “This is a Family of service.”

As he retired, Thurman gave all the credit to those troops with whom he served and led.

“There is nothing more important than a Soldier,” Thurman said.

He offered parting advice, acquired over nearly 40 years and throughout 10 commands, about the importance of education, coaching, teaching and mentoring.

“Every day I wake up to make a difference,” Thurman said.

He also placed importance on knowing those who serve with you.

“The Army is all about people, and you have to know your people,” Thurman said.

Thurman earned his commission through ROTC at East Central Oklahoma University in 1975.

His first three commands were in Germany, where he led a troop in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment; followed by the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. He then commanded 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga. His next assignment was as the commander, operations group at the National Training Center and later as the commanding general.

He then commanded the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood and Multi-National Division, Baghdad, Iraq.

He commanded V Corps in Germany and U.S. Army Forces Command. His most recent assignment was as commander, United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea.

Thurman relinquished command of United Nations Command, Republic of Korea – United States Combined Forces Command, and United States Forces Korea Oct. 2.

He is a senior aviator and recipient of Defense Distinguished Service Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal (four oak leaf clusters), the Defense Superior Service Medal (one oak leaf cluster), the Legion of Merit (three oak leaf clusters), the Bronze Star Medal (one oak leaf cluster), the Meritorious Service Medal (five oak leaf clusters), the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement medal (three oak leaf clusters). Thurman has earned the Combat Action Badge, the Parachutist Badge, the Army Staff Identification Badge and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge.

After nearly 40 years in the Army, Thurman will settle in Central Texas, but he is not yet finished serving Soldiers.

“I want to help our wounded warriors,” he said. “I want to be an advocate and a leader for them.”
 
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