|Sharon Belkofer Thursday in her home.
ROSSFORD — For almost two decades of his life Don and Sharon Belkofer shared their son Tom with the country, and Thursday two days after he died in a massive blast in Kabul, they wanted to share his story with the community.
Surrounded by reporters with cameras, tape recorders and notebooks, the couple sat in the living room of their Perrysburg Township home to speak about Lt. Col. Thomas P. Belkofer, who traveled the world in the service, but always came home to Ohio for Christmas. The room was filled with family photos and at Don Belkofer’s elbow was a photo of his son, Tom, and his family.
Don Belkofer said that his son in contemplating retirement, maybe in a few years and after another promotion, his dream job would be to teach in the ROTC candidates program at Ohio State University.
When he would come back for holidays or family reunions, he and his wife, Margo, would get together with family and friends in the place he grew up, attending Glenwood Elementary and then Rossford High School where he participated in sports, especially wrestling.
As the parents spoke of their son, his body was on its way to Dover Air Force Base, where it was due to land in a matter of minutes.
When the messengers from the Army arrived at their home Tuesday to inform them of Tom Belkofer’s death, they didn’t believe him. They didn’t know their son had gone to Afghanistan to make arrangements for the 10th Mountain Division scheduled deployment there in October.
They argued so vociferously, they felt the Army officer maybe started to wonder if he indeed had the wrong family.
But tragedy would not be denied. The parents said they felt disconnected from reality as if trapped in a scene from a movie.
As the middle son, between Don Jr. and Doug, Tom was “full of life,” his mother said.
“Everything he enjoyed, he enjoyed to the utmost. Everything he did, he did to the utmost.”
“Tom always let you know what he felt. He had a strong sense of right and wrong,” Sharon Belkofer said, and if his parents’ actions didn’t fit that, he would argue.
This rebellious streak even made his father wonder how he would fit into the military. Yet the discipline and sense of mission suited him well. “He fell into it so easily.”
Before that he’d already had a full life, after graduating from Rossford High in 1983, he took classes at Wright State, then at University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University. He enlisted in the Army Reserve.
It wasn’t until he decided he couldn’t do what he envisioned with his life without a degree that he went back to BGSU first in physical therapy before graduating with a degree in architectural technology in 1992. By then he’d already been commissioned as a second lieutenant, and he’d met his wife, Margo, like him serving in the Army ROTC on campus.
His wife reached the rank of captain until the Army could no longer guarantee she and her husband would be stationed together, so she ended her career.
After BGSU, Tom Belkofer developed an interest in budgeting so the Army sent him to Syracuse University where he received his Master’s in Business Administration. At the time of his death he was the 10th Mountain Division assistant chief of staff for comptroller with the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion stationed at Fort Drum in northern New York State.
Don and Sharon Belkofer said as well as relying on each other for support in their grief, they have their son’s widow.
“She and Tom had often talked about if something like this would happen... if he were to die early, he’d want it to be this way, in the service of his country,” Sharon Belkofer said.
Lt. Col. Belkofer has served a year in Afghanistan before in 2005 and early 2006.
Then he was helping the Afghanis set up a payroll system. He worked closely with the Afghanis. “He enjoyed the people” in Afghanistan, his mother said. They would treat servicemen as if they were members of the family.
Tom Belkofer focused on the positives, he always did, his mother said.
He and his wife had two girls Alyssa, 15, and Ashley, 11. Anywhere they were stationed, they got involved in a church.
Now the parents are asking in their prayers “why?” And in time, his mother believes, the reason for this tragedy may be revealed.
In the meantime, they are awaiting their son’s return to Ohio. Services will be held locally the end of next week.
Then Lt. Col. Thomas P. Belkofer will be laid to rest among the heroes in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Asked if her son was a hero, Sharon Belkofer responded unequivocally, yes.
Front page caption: Don and Sharon Belkofer talk Thursday about their son, Lt. Col. Thomas Belkofer, who died earlier this week in Afghanistan. (Photos: JD Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)