SSG Rob Thornton, R.I.P.

I just found out that Rob Thornton, the brother of one of my ROTC buddies (Scott Thornton) was killed in action in Iraq recently.

Three Comrades Remember Brother-in-Arms, Born Tanker (Defend America News)

SSG Rob Thornton

Staff Sgt. Robert “Robbie†Thornton, a tanker and platoon sergeant in Troop C, 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, who died Aug. 25 while on patrol in Baghdad’s Al Rashid district.


His love for tanking and soldiering leads Jones, Thomton and Weink to believe Robbie died the way wanted Рon a tank, in battle. It didn̢۪t matter if, as the headquarters platoon sergeant, Robbie didn̢۪t need to be out there. He absolutely wanted to go out on patrol; he would act as a gunner or as a loader, sometimes for Jones, but more often than not for other tank crews, Jones said.

Late on the evening of Aug. 25, Robbie was commanding a tank during a long patrol of Highway 8, the main highway leading from Baghdad International Airport through the Al Rashid District. An insurgent fired a rocket-propelled grenade at his tank. The round hit the commander’s hatch and exploded. Robbie was mortally wounded yet continued to fight until he passed out. “He loved tanking that much,†Jones said. “He was made to be in the Army and be a tanker. It’s all he ever did.†That was his goal, said Weink, to be a tanker and “be the best damned tanker there was.†“He was always hard charging, no matter if he was in pain, he just had to be out on a tank,†Weink said.

Robbie was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart for his actions that night.

Rob’s dad was a career Air Force pilot who served in Vietnam and his brother, Scott, served as a Navy diver. I only met Rob once or twice and haven’t seen him in at least ten years. Still, I’m pretty sure he’d rather have died surrounded by his grandchildren about forty years from now rather than on that tank. Like most military leaders, though, he was willing to risk everything rather than let his soldiers down.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Obituaries, OTB History, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jade says:

    May he rest in peace…

    Will keep his family and friends in my prayers.

  2. Beckii says:

    He was a very special person and will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

  3. Wm Santos says:

    I knew Robert Thornton as SPC Thornton when I was his Platoon Sergeant at DCO 1/32 Armor, FT. Lewis, Washington. I found out last week what happened and was deeply sadened for Thornton and his family.

    Our Armor unit was small and we were all like family. Thornton was a squared away soldier and an awesome guy to meet in life. You could not ask to have a better attitude from a soldier and a friend.

    I plan to contact his family and offer any asistance I can possibly offer. I may also have some photos of Thornton which I would like to send his family. I hope his wife remembers me. If anyone can help me with getting in touch with her I would be thankful. Once again I can’t say enough good things about him. I know he impressed everyone in my unit.

    I wished I could have been there to watch his back…

    I will never forget my memories of Specialist Robert C. Thornton, my friend / my family…….

  4. Ellen Thornton PROUD WIFE of SSG Robert Thornton says:

    Rob was my husband and has been my best friend and “soul-mate” for the past 14 years. I think I know him pretty well and I am confident that he did not die in vain. He was a career soldier and knew very well the sacrifices of war. Still he went willingly into battle out of loyality to his country and his brothers-in-arms. He was a true soldier and he gave 110% all the time. Yes, I’m sure that he would have preferred to come home and watch his children grow, but I also know that even if he had known that he would not come back from that last mission, he would have gone anyway. That was the type of person he was. He died with dignity and honor preserving the freedoms we enjoy today. That is what I will tell my children and grandchildren when they ask about their dad/granddad. Please do not diminish his death by questioning his dedication to his Country, Unit or Fellow Soldiers. He is a hero who sacrificed everything for his country. He deserves your respect.

  5. Terrell Fielland says:

    Can someone please tell me if this is Rob Thornton from Tampa Florida? If so, he was my best friend for years when we were little kids. We lost touch by the time we were in highschool. He went to Jesuit and I went to plant high. The Rob I knew had two brothers, and one was named Scott. I have not seen him in the past 20 years but from the photo it looks to me like it could be him. I like to hope it wasn’t him but regardless I am very sorry for Ellen Thorton’s loss. He was a wonderful kid I’m sure he turned out to be a fantastic father. I will never forget him!

  6. Jeff and Suzy Bradley Brother & Sister in law says:

    If you every had the chance to meet Robby he made a lasting impression your life forever. He was just that type of person. He loved life, his family, his country and was fully dedicated to the United States Army. He never had any regrets for what he did or had to do. He made this world safer for not only his kids to grow up in but for mine too. He is the hero that my girls will forever have to look up to. Whether he is with us on earth or as our very own guardian angel now we know that the sacrifices he made on August 23, 2004 in Iraq made a difference to us. Not many people would give up the chance to see their kids grow up to go and protect other peoples lives in another country. Robby would do it in a heartbeat and he did. I lost a best friend, a racing buddy, and a brother. But thanks to his dedication, we all sleep a little safer at night knowing he guards over us all the time now!

  7. Larry Maxwell says:

    I was also stationed with him at Ft. Lewis. I was in C co. with 1st Sgt Dugay.

    I ran across this site doing some research on 1/32.

    I didn’t know him very well, I knew of him. I am grateful for that.

    This saddens me deeply and I am thankful for the service that he has given to this country.

    Many thanks and prayers to his family and the other soldiers of 1/32ar for the sacrifices they have given us.