Thomes is a Master Sgt. with the Air National Guard's 133rd Civil Engineering Squadron.
He was drafted into active duty army in 1969, during the Vietnam War. He served nearly two years in Vietnam.
He was out of the military for several years. In 1980 Thomes joined Paynesville's Army Reserve unit. He stayed there until 1987. Then, he transferred to the 133rd Air National Guard.
When he was in the active Army, Thomes worked in communications and repaired radios. In the Army Reserves, he worked in communications and cooked. In the Air Guard, Thomes is an electrician.
Every year, each legion post in the state picks a soldier who is still in the National Guard or Reserve to compete for the title of Soldier of the Year. After he was chosen, Thomes had to fill out an application, which included questions about his military history, awards and community service.
Sgt. Maj. Bob Bowden, who was last year's recipient, helped Thomes out with the application. Thomes and Bowden knew each other because Bowden was Thomes' 1st Sgt. when he served in Paynesville's reserve unit.
The awards Thomes was able to list include the Bronze Star and the Air Force Achievement Medal.
Thomes has been a member of the American Legion for 23 years. He's the Sergeant of Arms at Post 271. His duties include getting legion members together for funerals and parades. The "camaraderie" is what keeps Thomes with the legion.
"It (the military) teaches you respect," Thomes said. Thomes is an electrician for Jennie-O-Foods in Willmar. He said his supervisors always notice that he is respectful and says "yes, sir" or "no, sir".
"It's not really an individual award," Thomes said. When he went to receive the award, his wife, daughter, step-daughter, parents and most of his siblings were there to see it.
Thomes also had support from his friends, former post commander Carl Wagner and Jay Beebe, the Sixth District secretary.
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