Thomas L. Kirts, Sr.
U. S. Navy
Desert Storm
Dates of Service: 01/13/1983 - 09/30/2003
Religious Program Specialist/Chaplain Assistant

Thomas was born in Coushatta, Louisiana as the seventh and last child of George and Annie Ruth Gary Kirts. George worked for KC&S Railroad and sang in a quartet at church. The year Thomas was born his father and a friend "spoke out," on civil rights. "His friend was killed. My dad was crippled for life. He was shot at close range with a twelve-gauge shotgun." With his father unable to work, Thomas' mother "was the breadwinner for the family," he remarks. She worked as a maid. By age 15, Thomas was doing odd jobs at a tractor dealership, earning $75 a week. He gave his paycheck to his mother to help with family expenses. Meanwhile, at Coushatta High School, he lettered in three sports, performed in drama, and joined Future Farmers of America. He graduated in 1982 and married Ramona Sheehy that summer on August 21. They would have three children and one grandchild. Thomas briefly attended Grambling State University, then enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After boot camp in Orlando, Florida, he was assigned as a Religious Program Specialist. "I felt like it was something that the Lord wanted me to do, and also I wanted to do," he says of his specialty. During his navy career he sailed on many ships, where his job was to foster religious beliefs, conduct services, and counsel sailors. Thomas served at a navy chapel in Memphis from 1985 to 1988, then was stationed at Naval Station Mayport in Florida with Combat Logistics Squadron 14. As part of his duties, he and a chaplain conducted Sunday services on several ships, flying from one to another by helicopter. "Holy helo," they jokingly called their mode of travel. While in Florida he was twice selected as Sailor of the Year. Thomas was sent to Desert Shield/Desert Storm in the winter of 1989. "Everything happened so quickly it was almost like it wasn't a war," he says of the conflict. After Desert Storm he was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, for three years until 1996, then entered a retreat ministry, Chaplain Religious Enrichment Development Operations (CREPO). Meanwhile, Ramona was also employed as a caregiver at the navy's daycare and child development center there. Retiring in 2003 Thomas moved the family to Shreveport where he worked in casino security. He later joined Booker T. Washington Nursing Home Center as activities director.