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Keni Thomas in 2006
|Origin||Gainesville, Florida, USA|
Keni Thomas is an American country music singer and former United States Army Ranger. Thomas was a member of Task Force Ranger as a part of Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, and served in the Battle of Mogadishu. Thomas works as a motivational speaker drawing from this experience as a US Ranger.
As a country singer, Thomas has recorded several independently-released albums. Two singles, from the album Flags of Our Fathers:A Soldier's Story charted on the Billboard country music charts.
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1991 - 1997|
|Battles/wars||Battle of Mogadishu (1993)|
Thomas enlisted in the Army in 1991. Prior to joining the Army he graduated from the University of Florida. He served as a Ranger in the 75th Ranger Regiment, eventually attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant.
Thomas was a member of Task Force Ranger as a part of Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. A main objective of the Task Force was to capture the elusive Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The most well known of their combat missions occurred October 3, 1993, when Thomas and fellow Task Force members were involved in the Battle of Mogadishu that was later immortalized in the book and movie Black Hawk Down, for which he was a consultant. Twenty years later he returned to Mogadishu with fellow veteran Jeff Struecker to film a short retracing their steps in the Battle of Mogadishu. He also served as a consultant for We Were Soldiers.
After Somalia, Thomas went on to serve as an assistant team leader on Ranger recon teams. His military decorations and achievements include the Bronze Star for Valor with the "V" device and the Combat Infantryman Badge. Thomas was awarded Master Parachute wings with over 400 jumps, the British and Belgian parachute wings and successfully completed the Army's Ranger School, Belgian Commando School, the Special Forces Combat Diver's School, the Army's Jumpmaster Course, Pathfinder School, Military Free Fall (MFF) School, Cold Weather Mountaineering School, and Medical Emergency School.
Youth counselor and speaker
Upon leaving active duty service, Thomas worked as a youth counselor. He also became a speaker, giving presentations to various audiences across the United States.
Thomas formed the band Cornbread and began his career in music by performing with the band in and around Columbus, Georgia. Cornbread made a bigger name for itself during the middle to the late 1990s and extended its shows to college campuses such as Auburn University. Thomas and Cornbread released several albums, including Flags of Our Fathers, which was released under the artist's name, Keni Thomas. Cornbread was also featured in the movie "Sweet Home Alabama" starring Reese Witherspoon. In the movie, Keni and his bandmates perform the feature song, "Sweet Home Alabama", (originally recorded by Lynyrd Skynyrd in the late 1970s) for which the movie was named. Thomas donates some of the proceeds to the Hero Fund, which directs those funds to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, an organization created to provide college scholarships and financial aid to the children of deceased or wounded Special Operations soldiers.
Thomas appeared in a 2011 episode of the FX television show Louie, portraying himself in a fictionalized version of a real U.S.O. visit to Afghanistan he took with comedian Louis C.K. in December 2008.
|Headspace and Timing||
|No Place Like Home||
As Keni Thomas
|Flags of Our Fathers: A Soldier's Story||
|2005||"Not Me" (with Vince Gill and Emmylou Harris)||47||Flags of Our Fathers:
A Soldier's Story
|"Gloryland" (with Blackhawk)||56|
|2008||"Shreveport to L.A."||—||Gunslinger|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart|
|2008||"Shreveport to L.A."||Glenn Sweitzer|
- From Somalia to country star: UF grad's story | Gainesville.com | The Gainesville Sun | Gainesville, FL
- Tim Molloy (25 August 2011). "'Louie' Goes to Afghanistan Tonight -- and You Should Watch". Reuters. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
- Louis C.K. (10 March 2009). "USO trip day one". louisck.net. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Keni Thomas.|
- Official Keni Thomas website
- Somalia to country star: UF grad's story
- St. Petersburg Times article on Keni Thomas
- December 2007 edition of Playgrounds Magazine, featuring an interview with Keni Thomas