By: Hannah Paczkowski
Thomas Brewer's career as a soldier began when he was 18-years-old. He entered the Nebraska National Guard Dec. 27, 1977.
"I needed help with college and the guard had a good program to provide benefits for college so that was part of the inspiration," Col. Brewer said.
That inspiration took him further than he ever thought he would go. Many have called him "Nebraska's most battle-tested soldier". He said one of the more dangerous times was when he was deployed to Afghanistan.
"As I became captain, they came to with an opportunity to fly cobra helicopters and be a part of Calvary Squardron. A coach for the shooting team. Director of marksmanship for the whole country. Snagged to go to Afghanistan early in the war to help build the Afghan National Army. For two years I was off the Air force Base flying aboard the NAOC. I went back to Afghanistan for several more tours and that's where I was wounded this most recent time," he said.
A memory that sticks with him, especially Dec. 19, the anniversary of when a rocket propelled grenade impacted the armored vehicle right next to him. It's known as the 45-minute "Bone Yard" firefight with Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
"The next thing that happens is a flaming football lands next to you and everything turns white and you wake up and you're on the ground. I was bleeding out my mouth, my nose, my ears, and all the other wounds and so it was just a very traumatic moment," Col. Brewer said.
For the last two years, Brewer received medical care for his injuries.
As he gets ready to hang up his uniform for the last time with friends, family and fellow soldiers by his side, he's finding it hard to believe it's all over.
"How you will put into words to say goodbye, I haven't figured that one out yet," he said.
Col. Brewer said he's not done helping others. His next plan of action is to continue working with Horses for Heroes, a program for veterans who were wounded in battle.