Thomas Janis – Chief Warrant Officer, United States Army

From a contemporary press report

Alabama man killed by Colombian rebels buried at Arlington

MONTGOMERY, Alabama – The military spirit never left Thomas Janis, a Vietnam veteran and Bronze Star recipient who did intelligence work in Colombia after retiring from the Army.

“I did my darndest to talk him out of the job,” his wife, Judith, said Thursday, “but Tom was a soldier and this was just another way of being a soldier.”

Thomas Janis, 56, and Colombian Army Sergeant Luis Cruz were shot and killed by rebels after the U.S. government plane they were in crashed February 13, 2003, in Colombia. Three other Americans aboard the plane were still being held hostage Thursday.

The identities of the dead were released this week by John Walters, director of White House drug control policy. Janis, a retired Chief Warrant Officer, was buried Monday with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Judith Janis was returning home from visiting her husband the day his plane went down.

“It was 36 hours before we knew anything, and that was a horrible 36 hours,” she said.

Thomas Janis retired from the Army about five years ago, 32 years after being drafted at age 18. He and the three hostages worked for California Microwave Systems, a unit of defense contractor Northrop Grumman that provides surveillance systems for the U.S. military.

Janis had been with the company for about a year, but worked in Colombia for another company before that, Judith Janis said.

State Department officials asked Judith Janis not to discuss the Americans still held captive by rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The captives' names were not released.

Janis worked on a rotation of 28 days in Colombia and 12 days at home, but his wife visited often enough that they were rarely apart for more than 10 days. They were together since “he crashed my Sweet 16 party,” she said.

They were married for 35 years and had four children, two of whom followed their father into the Army: one as a helicopter pilot stationed in Kuwait, another stationed with a reserve unit at Fort Eustis in Newport News, Virginia.

During his career, Janis earned honors including Meritorious Service medals and the Air Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device for Valor.

“He was a hero,” his wife said. “He'll always be our hero.”

Read our general and most popular articles

Leave a Comment