Thomas M. Stokes Jr., 76, a retired and much decorated U.S. Marine Corps colonel, died Jan. 17 at Jefferson Memorial Hospital, in Charles Town, after a short illness.
Col. Stokes, who lived in Charles Town and Jefferson County since retiring from the Marine Corps, took part in several combat actions during his Marine Corps career.
In 1964, as a liaison to the Belgian Commandos during the Congolese Civil War in the Republic of the Congo, he was the sole American participating in the rescue of civilian European hostages in Stanleyville and Paulis.
In 1966, Col. Stokes was assigned as the operations officer for the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division in the Republic of Vietnam, where he served for 13 months and participated in multiple combat operations against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. Col. Stokes was cited for bravery and awarded our nation's third highest medal for valor in combat, the Silver Star, as well as the Bronze Star with combat.
Col. Stokes served at Headquarters Marine Corps from 1967 to 1970 and was the executive officer of the Marine Barracks Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from 1970 to 1972. Between 1972 and 1977, Col. Stokes commanded the 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division at Camp Schwab Okinawa and the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion and HQ and Service Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.
Col. Stokes also served with the Joint United States Military Advisory Group, Thailand as the senior Marine advisor to the Royal Thai Marine Corps in 1977. In 1978, he assumed command of HQ Battalion Marine Corps Base Camp Lejenue, N.C. In 1981, he was assigned as the commanding officer of the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit. During this command, Col. Stokes led the U.S. contingent of the International Peacekeeping Force in Beirut, Lebanon from Oct. 1982 to Feb. 1983. His Marines provided security for the Lebanese government and helped train the Lebanese military. For his unit's noteworthy contributions to improving the stability of the Lebanese government, he was awarded the Order of the Cedar by the chief of staff of the Lebanese Armed Forces. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1984.
Over his Marine Corps career, other decorations, badges and ribbons Col. Stokes received include the Legion of Merit, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Navy Unit Commendation, The Meritorius Unit Commendation and Navy Marine Parachutist Badge.
A native of Raleigh, N.C., Col. Stokes grew up in several locations throughout the country as the son of a U.S. Naval officer, Vice Adm. Thomas M. Stokes Sr. He graduated high school from St. Andrews Academy, in Middletown, Del., and entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1950. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1954 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps through the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps.
After retiring from the Marine Corps, Col. Stokes served on the Charles Town police commission and the Jefferson County Zoning Appeals Board. From 1985 to 1987, Col. Stokes was chairman of the Jefferson County United Way Campaign and the following two years he was the president. He was also a member of Morning Kiwanis; the Cooking Club; 40 & 8; and Sons of the Confederacy.
Survivors include his wife, Julia Gay Glover Stokes, whom he married in 1954, of Charles Town; four children, Leslie Waller, of Sneads Ferry, N.C., Thomas M. Stokes III, of Frederick, Md., Chris Stokes, of Charles Town, and Miles Stokes, of Ellicott City, Md.; 12 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Vice Adm. Thomas M. Stokes Sr. and Ruth Leslie Stokes; and his sister, Susanne Echols.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent to the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation at www.marineheritage.org.
A memorial service will be held 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009, at Grace Episcopal Church, Middleway, with the Rev. John Alfriend officiating. Interment will be private.
Arrangements by Melvin T. Colonial Funeral Home, Charles Town. E-mail condolences to info@ mtstrider.com.