PFC Thomas Wayne Hodge was born on September 5, 1949 to Thomas and Pauline Hodge in Highland, Illinois. Thomas (Tom) enlisted in the US Army in 1967 and volunteered for the Infantry and Viet Nam. Tom arrived in Viet Nam on December 7, 1967. At age 18, Tom volunteered to be a member of E Company 50th Inf (Airborne) (long Range Patrol). After he completed Recondo School, he was accepted into the unit. Tom was slight of stature but strong in his commitment to the unit and the men.
On Jan 24, 1968, exactly 7 days before the 1968 Tet Offensive, Tom lost his life in a firefight in Binh Son, Viet Nam. The 9th Div Lrp teams had been in that area of operations due to the increased presence around the nearby Bien Hoa airbase. The team came across an unmarked intersection of two trails. The Team Leader and the point man moved out recon the trail while the rest of the team took up a security position. The team was unaware that a group of VC was coming up behind them. As the VC were preparing to take the team under fire, Tom stepped out on the trail and engaged the enemy until his weapon jammed. Tom was closest to the VC and took brunt of the enemy fire. All of the VC were killed in the firefight, but as they were policing the ambush site another group of VC began to pursue the team. Tom's actions prevented the team from being wiped out and allowed the team to escape. Tom had died almost instantly from his wounds.
The VC continued their pursuit of the team and the team kept breaking contact using the standard techniques. The team decided to leave Tom's body and hid it and booby-trapped it. They did make it to a LZ and were extracted. When the team got back to the base camp the reaction force was ready to retrieve Tom's body and the T/L went with them back to disarm the bobby trap and carry Tom out.
After action reports reflected that three of the team's weapons jammed and this resulted in a several day inspection of all weapons by a division team. This resulted in a number of the weapons being found to be prone to jamming. This resulted in the issue of a new model M-16 to the unit saving more lives for the unit.
While Tom was not in the unit very long he certainly up held the Ranger Creed and lived as a Ranger with courage and determination.
His commanding officer, Captain Clancy Matsuda, who would retire as a LT Col and become a member of the Ranger Hall of Fame, recommended Tom for the Silver Star for Valor, as his actions allowed his team members to escape.