Oklahoma Marine killed in action in Iraq

Monday, March 31st 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (AP) _ An Oklahoman who joined the Marine Corps out of high school is the state's first known casualty in the war with Iraq.

The Defense Department confirmed Sunday that Lance Cpt. Thomas Allen Blair, 24, of Broken Arrow was killed in action. Blair's father, Al Blair of Gravette, Ark., told The Associated Press earlier in the day that he had been notified by the Marines on Saturday.

The elder Blair declined further comment and said his other son, Alfred Blair, was expected to respond to media Monday. Alfred Blair is a Marine staff sergeant who has not been deployed to Iraq.

Blair's mother, Nancy Blair, lives in Broken Arrow. She could not be reached for comment. A wreath hung on the gate to her property Sunday, colored red, white and blue with Thomas Blair's name on it.

Blair was among eight North Carolina-based Marines who disappeared during fighting on the outskirts of An Nasiriyah, Iraq, March 23.

Blair was assigned to the 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, Marine Air Control Group 28, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing in Cherry Point, N.C.

He joined the Marine Corps in 1997, the same year he graduated from high school in Broken Arrow.

Blair returned to the United States in October after a two-year deployment in Okinawa, Japan. Blair left for the Persian Gulf on Jan. 10.

Teachers at Broken Arrow High School remembered him as a disciplined student who played drums in the high school band.

As a sophomore, Blair sewed a military insignia to his band uniform, just like senior band members.

``You'd give him an inch ... and he'd just want to take it to the next step,'' Darren Davis, Blair's high school band teacher, said last week.

A Marine killed March 23 near An Nasiriyah had ties to Oklahoma. Second Lt. Frederick Eben Pokorney, 31, lived in North Carolina and was born in California, but lived in Wynnewood from 1981 to 1987.