Pilot Killed in 2003, Family Finally Receives Defense of Freedom Medal

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By Alabama News Network

An army veteran's family is awarded the civilian equivalent of the Purple Heart, the Defense of Freedom Medal, after being killed by narco-terrorists in Columbia about a decade ago.


CW5 Thomas Janis was killed in Columbia on February 13, 2003. Wednesday at Maxwell Air Force Base's Air War College, General John F. Kelly, commander of the U.S. Southern Command gave the medal to Janis' wife, Mrs. Judith Janis, for her husband's heroic actions a decade ago.


After retiring from 32 years of active duty, Janis worked as contractor pilot in Columbia, flying missions to detect cocaine crops.


In February 2003, during a routine flight, engine failure forced Janis to crash land, saving everyone's lives on board. Soon after, Janis was captured and murdered by the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces, a narco-terrorist organization commonly referred to as the FARC.


Thomas' children say their father did what he loved until the day he died.

"It really seems like yesterday, that time has gone by really quick, but it's still very enlightening to know that the nation has not forgot about him and he still continues to be recognized," said CW4 Christopher Janis.


Thomas Jannis is survived by his wife, Mrs. Judith Janis, who lives in Montgomery County, and his four children. (CW4 Christopher Janis, CW2 Michael Janis, Ms. Greer Janis, Mr. Jonathan Jantis)


The Defense of Freedom Medal was created after the September 11 attacks, to honor civilians, or veterans turned contractors, like Jannis, who were either injured or killed in the line of duty.


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