To know Alan as a child, one can only remember the big "ear to ear" grin. Through all the memories Rita and I can share, the single one thing we will always remember is that grin. He had it as a very small child, and through his younger years, and even though we never had the chance to know him as a man, we do know the one thing that he still carried was that beautiful smile.
FIVE GENERATIONSThis picture was taken in 1967, Alan was just a baby, it shows the one of the few pictures that includes five generations of a family. Alan the baby, Left to right, Lynn Nichols (Mother), Madonna Waldrip (Grandmother), Anna Metheny (Great Grandmother) and seated holding Alan, is Frank Shedelbower, (Great Great Grandfather). I think if your look very closely at Mom, and Grandmom, you just might see where Alan got his great big grin. My Mother (Anna) enjoys the scene, while Grandpa Shedelbower ... well he was just Grandpa!! And How he loved the babies!
ALAN at FOUR
Even at the young age of four and a half Alan showed his characteristic big grin, this picture of him was one of his grandmothers favorites. Thanks Donna for supplying the pictures, and the written obituary. You, Lynn and his sisters and brother, and especially "Aunt" Elaine who was close to his age, all know that our hearts, our thoughts, and our prayers are with you all.
When I asked Lynn if I could share some of the pictures with you all, she consented without question, and offered this letter she received from his Military Commander.
(From Lynn): He touched so many people in his short life. I knew he was special, but I didn't know how special he was to so many people. I have a letter from his commanding officer that says so much. May I share it?
Dear Mrs. Nichols, On behalf of all the soldiers in 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, I want to express our deepest condolences over the loss of your son. I can imagine no greater sorrow than to lose a child. Our hearts go out to you. SFC Thomas was a superb soldier and a great human being. He made a dramatic impact on the lives of everyone that knew him. I was fortunate enough to have worked closely with Mike (he used his first name at work) for a year. It was always a pleasure to chat with him, whether it was business or simply discussing the trials and tribulations of life. His good humor was infectious and I always felt a little better after being in his company. Those are times that I will sorely miss. Mike's funeral service was today. And as I write this, I recall the large number of family, friends, and fellow soldiers that attended. There were not enough seats for everyone, but that did not matter to those that had to stand in the back. They simply wanted to pay their respects to a man that we all deeply cared for. I have never seen a crowd like that before in the Chapel, and on a day when the roads are slick with ice and it would have been easy for people to find excuses for not attending. The presence of so many people speaks volumes as to the type of man that Mike was and how greatly he will be missed. I will never forget Mike. The soldiers of this Battalion will not forget him, and we will pass his legacy on to the new soldiers that join us. He set the finest example possible of how to be a soldier and a friend. Sincerely, Michael S Adams, LTC, SF, Commanding Fort Bragg, North Carolina