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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 Black Hawk Down and its subsequent film adaptation, for which he served as a consultant. Tac Fitzgerald portrayed him in the film. Twenty years later he returned to Mogadishu with fellow veteran Jeff Struecker, now a pastor, 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. Represented by Premiere Speakers Bureau, Thomas draws from his experiences on the battlefield, and inspires people to achieve greatness by stressing the importance of outstanding leadership at every level, even if the only person you are leading is yourself.
in 2011, Thomas wrote and released his first book, entitled "Get It On." The book tells his personal account from October 1993 when he was writing a letter to his mom, then heard the words “get it on,” said by one of his Army Ranger superiors. Thomas geared up, loaded into a Blackhawk helicopter and headed for Mogadishu, Somalia, where he would become one of the lucky servicemen to return from what would become known as Black Hawk Down, a battle that lasted two days, took 19 lives and wounded an additional 78 soldiers.
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.
Thomas has made several appearances on the famed Grand Ole Opry, including his most recent performance in May of 2014. He has appeared on several television shows to talk about his book and his time during the Battle of Mogadishu, including Huckabee and CNN.
Thomas has performed the National Anthem for the New York Yankees several times, including game one of the 2009 World Seriesand again in 2012, as well as for the San Francisco Giants on Memorial Day 2010.
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.
Thomas' song "Hold The Line" was featured in the May 2014 feature documentary, The Hornet's Nest, which uses real footage to tell the story of an elite group of U.S. troops sent on a dangerous mission deep inside one of Afghanistan’s most hostile valleys.
On Sunday, June 8, 2014, Thomas sang the National Anthem for the unveiling of Allied Paratrooper Monument in honor of the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day in Normandy, France. He performed with the 82nd Airborne Division Color Guard.
|Headspace and Timing||
|No Place Like Home||
As Keni Thomas
|Flags of Our Fathers: A Soldier's Story||
|Give It Away||
|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|
|2014||"Hold The Line"||—||Give It Away|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart|
|2008||"Shreveport to L.A."||Glenn Sweitzer|
|2014||"Hold The Line"|
- "From Somalia to country star: UF grad's story". The Gainesville Sun. January 14, 2006.
- Ghiroli, Brittany (October 28, 2009). "Star-studded tribute precedes Game 1". mlb.com
- "". Comcast Sportscenter.[dead link]
- 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