Story by 1st Lt. Jessica Donnelly
MCCRADY TRAINING CENTER, S.C. – Each year the Palmetto Military Academy (PMA) conducts a Hall of Fame (HoF) induction ceremony recognizing PMA graduates who have distinguished themselves in their military and civilian careers. This year’s ceremony, held Aug. 13 at the McCrady Training Center in Eastover, South Carolina, honored two inductees, to include U.S. Army Capt. John Thorne, Jr.
“There can be no greater honor for a man or woman than to be recognized by their peers for their accomplishments,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Kenneth Snow, PMA Association president. “Induction into the PMA Hall of Fame is just that.”
Snow explained, the HoF started in 1984 to acknowledge the PMA graduates who have met at least one of the following criteria: recipient of the Medal of Honor; be federally recognized as a colonel and hold that rank for at least one year; loss of life under hostile conditions while displaying exceptional valor; loss of life while rescuing, or attempting to rescue, another human being; or recipient of the Purple Heart or while displaying exemplary leadership and bravery while under hostile conditions during combat operations while in contact with and enemy force under direct fire.
Due to this criteria, there have only been seven inductees since 1984 below the rank of colonel including himself, and four of which were posthumous, explained Thorne.
Thorne was inducted for being awarded a Purple Heart Medal on two separate occasions, one award and one oak leaf cluster, while deployed with the South Carolina National Guard. Thorne has served nearly 18 years with the South Carolina National Guard, deploying four times to Bosnia, Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan. During two of those deployments, seven years apart nearly to the day, events took place that warranted Thorne being awarded a Purple Heart.
“During the first event, I was a squad leader, sergeant, with C Battery, 1st Battalion, 178th Field Artillery Regiment. I was [Military Police] and the FA BN had been selected to conduct a MP mission,” said Thorne. “We were ambushed by an [improvised explosive device] and small arms fire. I received a concussion, hearing loss and injuries to my left and right shoulders.”
This event took place July 15, 2005, and even after receiving these injuries, Thorne continued to serve with the South Carolina National Guard. He earned his commission from PMA as part of Class 59 in 2008, becoming a MP officer. In 2011, Thorne deployed again with the 133rd MP Company, attached to the 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.
“The second event occurred in Khost Province, Afghanistan…On 2 July 2012, a 107mm rocket landed between 20-30 feet from me and three of my Soldiers,” said Thorne. “We were in our [tactical operations center], which was an unprotected plywood building. The blast destroyed the back wall of the building and knocked us to the floor. I sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury and injuries to my back.”
Thorne added, if it had not been for a phone call that got him out of bed, followed by three Soldiers knocking on his door while he was sleeping, his second Purple Heart would have been awarded posthumously.
“If those two things hadn’t happened, I would have been asleep in the room that was totally destroyed,” said Thorne. “I dug a giant piece of shrapnel out of the dent in my pillow where my head was. There is no way I would have lived through that explosion in my bedroom.”
Even after these two events, Thorne continues his service with the South Carolina National Guard currently working as the operations officer for 2nd Battalion, 218th Regiment (Leadership) at the McCrady Training Center.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Purple Heart is the nation’s oldest military award and is one of the most recognized medals awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces. It is awarded to service members wounded or killed in action.
PMA conducts the HoF annually in conjunction with the Officer Candidate School commissioning ceremony.