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In death, veteran continues to give

Published: Jan. 2, 2022 at 2:45 PM EST
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PRINCETON, W.Va. (WVVA) - Family, friends and servicemembers filled Princeton’s Immanuel Baptist Church on Monday to honor a local veteran who died on December 15, 2021.

William Joseph Thompson, 50, of Princeton was a retired Staff Sergeant who spent nearly a quarter century serving in the U.S. Army. That service came at a high price though, as Thompson returned home with pulmonary fibrosis. His work in toxic environments near burn pits in Iraq caused irreparable damage to his lungs.

Despite the odds though, Thompson’s family and friends say he never stopped fighting.

“He never, never one time asked ‘why me?’ He asked, ‘why not me?’” said Thompson’s friend Matt Bailey. “He wanted that burden.”

Thompson received two separate lung transplants after his time in Iraq. His family says the operations gave him nine more years of life. Nine years that Thompson took advantage of, as he set an example for those around him, while pushing through a terminal diagnosis.

“I know our kids didn’t have the life that most do,” said Thompson’s widow Suzanne. “They had to sacrifice a lot, but their dad was a great example for them. He taught them to keep fighting, to be brave, to keep the faith and love God with all your heart, and keep God first.”

In his final years, Thompson advocated for veterans who, like him, faced toxic exposures during their service. In March of 2021 he even testified before the U.S. Senate, speaking out for others.

Those closest to Thompson concede they don’t fully grasp the gravity of his sacrifice for his country.

“He went through so much that I didn’t and still don’t understand,” said Thompson’s daughter, Ava. “My dad couldn’t do the things that most dads can. I could never play in the snow with him or swim in the lake, or even paint my nails around him … but somehow he still managed to be the best dad I could ask for.”

As one of Thompson’s final wishes, those who want to honor him can donate canned goods to their local food banks or pantries in his honor.

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