Senior Airman LaWanda Thomas was bringing home a very special gift to her parents in Southfield, Michigan—her two-month-old son, Jonathan Ryan, whom her parents had never seen.
Daughter of Eugene and Lelia Coleman, LaWanda was a graduate of Coley High School in Detroit, Michigan, her birthplace, where she was an exceptional student and completed two years of Junior ROTC. After completing basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, LaWanda attended Base Supply Tech School and then was assigned to the 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron as a munitions supply specialist. When she went into the U.S. Air Force, LaWanda was determined to succeed and received numerous awards for outstanding progress. She was named EMS Professional of the Year in 1986 and was promoted to Senior Airman rank in 1987. In 1988, LaWanda was assigned to the 38th Tactical Missile Maintenance Squadron in Wuescheim, West Germany. It was in West Germany that her son was born.
Her father said that being in the Air Force was what his daughter had always wanted, saying, "We were happy because she was happy. She was just a loveable, happy person." Her mother had concerns about her going into the Air Force, but LaWanda's favorite saying was, "Don't worry, I will be fine." In addition to her parents she leaves a sister, Terri, and a brother, Steven.
LaWanda loved life and she loved her family and friends. She was always willing to help others. She looked forward to family gatherings, where she was always the life of the party. She had a close relationship with her sister and brother. Her mother says that when she thinks of her daughter, she thinks of her beautiful smile and her love for children. LaWanda had recently sent a picture of herself in her Air Force blues to her parents. On the back of the photo she wrote:
Thanks for the inspiration you've given me throughout the years.
You've always believed in me no matter what. I love you both very
much and am proud that you're my parents.
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