Brian Thompson

Master Sgt. Brian Thompson, flight engineer assigned to the 164th Airlift Squadron at the 179th Airlift Wing, poses for a portrait March 21 at the Ohio Air National Guard Base in Mansfield. Thompson has been in the military for the past 19 years, serving as a flight engineer with the 179th Airlift Wing for the past 14 years. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Alexis Wade)

MANSFIELD -- Brian Thompson was awakened by a smell before he saw the flames.

“I woke up smelling a really strong smell thinking it was the neighbors burning something in their wood burner. I didn’t think anything of it and tried to roll over and go back to sleep, but the smell stayed," said Thompson, a master sergeant and flight engineer with the 164th Airlift Squadron at the 179th Airlift Wing.

"I finally got fed up and got up to close my bedroom window. I laid back down in bed, turned off my light, looked at my clock to see the time, and shut my eyes.

"I noticed a strange light and thought to myself, ‘Man, I’ve never seen that light before.' I opened up my eyes. That’s when I saw the flames shooting out of the back of my house. I leapt out of bed and yelled for my missus that the house was on fire and to get out," Thompson said.

That's how Thompson described the early morning of Nov. 18 when disaster struck his home with a fire that would destroy everything.

The fire that Thompson’s house endured, while devastating, also brought to light the huge support system the National Guard has -- a reputation of that Thompson said was vital following their disaster.

This support system is not new though, as Thompson said that it simply is the way of the Guard, supporting each other like family throughout life’s ups and downs.

“I’ve been in this unit since 2008 and it truly has felt like a second family to me. Through the good times and bad times, people have been there to help for whatever is going on in my life,” Thompson said. “Throughout the ups and downs, the one ray of hope has been my Guard family always watching out for me.”

Thompson stated that as a result of their fire, they lost their entire home, as well as eight cats and one dog. With the help of his Guard family, Thompson and his wife were able to move into a new home.

“From monetary donations, to offers of pet care and even a place to stay for an indefinite time, there was so much help offered,” Thompson said. “It is amazing to see that I truly have so many brothers and sisters that come in to help in time of need.”

Thompson urged everyone to learn from his family’s disaster, and hopes everyone listens to these three important lessons he learned: Don’t go back for your possessions; check your smoke detectors early and often; and use a fire-proof safe for important documents and valuables.

Thompson also encouraged everyone to get to know their co-workers, and make new friends outside of their normal circle as you never know where an act of kindness will come from.

“I pray this never happens to anyone ever again, but that is wishful thinking and we as a unit have to be ready to support our family when the need arises,” Thompson said. “Sometimes in a disaster a person just needs someone to be able to lean on to talk and have a guide post to help them through the dark.”

Thompson said the love and support he and his wife received during that time truly exemplified the “Guard family” feel.

“Bottom line is this Wing truly is a Guard family and really wants the best for everyone here,” Thompson said. “Our family has trials, tribulations, squabbles, and everything in between, but when it really matters, this place steps up to the plate and delivers.”

Support Our Journalism

Our content is free and always will be - but we rely on your support to sustain it. Become a member starting at $5 per month.