Latest album, Gunslinger
Recipient of the Bronze Star for Valor and Combat
Infantryman’s Badge for his efforts in the Battle of Mogadishu.
Spokesperson for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation
Keni Thomas: Soldier's Six String Salute
By Audra Smith
The 700 Club
In 1991, Keni Thomas followed in his father’s footsteps and became a U.S. Army Ranger. Keni was trained with the nation’s best and on Oct. 3, 1993, he was serving in Mogodishu, Somalia, preparing for the worst.
In the words of Keni Thomas:
“Task force Ranger was sent to Somalia to go get a warlord. If we couldn’t get a warlord, we were going to get his support cell.”
“We had been training 24/7, and they actually gave us some downtime. Some of the guys were playing volleyball and I was writing a letter home to my mom. And, just like that, we got the call. Get it on, gear up, mission was coming down.”
After 18 hours of what’s said to be the worst urban combat since World War II, Keni’s war experience went down in history, book-marked with three simple but terrifying words—Black Hawk Down.
The battle has been documented with a best selling book and on Hollywood’s big screen, but for Keni Thomas, it’s about the friends who didn’t make it home.
“On this particular day, we raided into a downtown part of Mogadishu. We knew going in that it was a bad part of town—what we didn’t know was that when we came out, we would lose 18 guys.”
“The first guy that I saw go down was a guy named Earl Filmore. Earl was a delta operator. Earl got hit; he was across the street. His team leader got to him and started yelling across the street to me, ‘hey, we need to get Earl medivacked!’ So I ran back to my sergeant and I said, ‘hey, can we get him on foot?’ And he looked at me very matter of factly and said, ‘No man - he’s dead.’ I saw mortality just like that.”
“Anybody that comes out of something where people didn’t make it out; not only will you spend your life thanking them, but you also have to deal with - there’s this strange sense of guilt, like, why me? And that is a real question I ask, ‘why God, did you let me out of there? When there were people that were three times the soldier that I was, that had families who deserved to make it out - why, why did you let me out?”
“I would crumble. I had a guy on my left and my right those days, but each one of us had to go through those trials and tribulations on our own. My friends were great, but I had to talk to God; I had to - actually sitting and taking time to read through the Bible. I picked it up again and started reading, and started learning, and started asking, ‘okay, help me to abide in this; let me, teach me, give me more knowledge.”
“I’m telling people, ‘when you start asking for help, you’ll be amazed at how quickly He’ll answer you. You want to know there is a God? Start asking for help.”
In 1997, Keni retired from the military. He traded in his rifle for a guitar. Today, he’s using country music as a platform to share his story of service, survival, and salvation.
“Do what feeds your spirit and the people around you will be better for it. I promise you they will.”
“When I handed in my rifle, this was my passion [music]. This is what feeds my soul. Use the gifts you have been given.”
Keni’s first album, Flags of our Fathers, was a strong patriotic tribute and his newest album, Gunslinger, was titled after the helicopter he was on during the conflict.
A large portion of his album sales go to military ministries. Keni also spends most of his tour dates and the holidays playing for troops.
“I know what those folks go through and I know what it means to them. Going and playing for 100 guys at a foreign operating base high in the mountains of Afghanistan with just my guitar is the most gratifying set I will ever do, until the day that I die. I know what those folks go through. They are being asked to do something that we take -- we take it for granted.”
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