SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Marine veteran Sidney Thomas wanted to be a walk-on basketball player at Syracuse, but things didn’t work out his way— or so he thought.

His cousin at the time was joining the Airforce and Thomas thought he might check it out himself.

“I went down to the recruiting station with him. I saw these other guys with this beautiful red stripe and blue plants and they look at those guys who always get the girls in the movies, and they win the fights,” Sidney explained. “So I talked him out of the Airforce and we came in the buddy program for the Marine Corps.”

At just 17 years old, Thomas said he was ready for it

“Athletes,” Sidney said abruptly. “We’re always pushing, physically pushing each other. Actually, I felt as though there were times when my coach was much tougher than maybe my drill instructor…”

Thomas quickly got to live out his dream of playing basketball.

“I got to play on the all-Marine team and I got to actually play with David Robinson,” he told 7 NEWS. “I got to play against some good, good, some good guys.”

That took him all over the world.

But his favorite job in the Marines was being a drill instructor.

“I was a two-time drill instructor,” Thomas said. “So I got to do all that yelling and screaming and all those fun things that I hated so much that first three months, but I got to be one.”

He said that job was the most rewarding.

“My superiors always felt that I was always taking the lead and that that it would fit my personality and they thought that I would do well there and I did I did extremely well there,” said Thomas.

He said but also the most challenging.

After Thomas’ first tour leaving the drill field, he got into a bad accident that left him temporarily paralyzed.

“Grand Junction, Colorado… One-hundred-one miles away from the accident and no life flight,” Thomas said. “Waiting on me, the two people to stop… The truck that I almost hit and a retired nurse. It was the two people that stopped and applied first aid. They took care of me.”

He said he was scared.

“But 30-some-odd days later, I moved my toe,” Thomas said. “And I went on to serve the remainder of my 30 years, I played basketball at the highest levels.”

Thomas said he thanks God for his comeback.

“And that’s changed my life ever since,” he explained.

Thomas described his road to recovery as a challenging one.

“I suffered some traumatic brain issues,” he said. “Trembling, uncontrollable tearing crying.”

He said it was a fight that he had to continue.

“I went to get counseling and they recommended me to get a dog and have someone to take care of,” Thomas shared. “So I was single again, I was divorced, I was at the time, it was just me… And my dog, who is the greatest dog there ever, and he took care of me as much as I took care of him.”

Thomas said he is blessed for his support community, the relationships he created, and the camaraderie being a Marine has built for him.

Sidney Thomas, Thank You for Your Service.

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