Contractor recognized with medal for ultimate sacrifice



by Donovan Jackson
Air University Public Affairs


4/5/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, presented the Defense of Freedom Medal to the family of Thomas Janis, a U.S. defense contractor killed in 2003 by narcoterrorists in Columbia, during a posthumous award ceremony March 27 at the Air War College.

"I did not know Thomas Janis," Kelly said. "But I would have to say, in my many years in the U.S. armed forces, I've come to know thousands of men and women just like him."
Janis was kidnapped and murdered Feb. 13, 2003, by armed members of the Columbian Revolutionary Armed Forces, a narco-terrorist organization known as the FARC, after successfully crash-landing the Cessna Caravan aircraft he was piloting into the jungles of Columbia.

Janis was flying surveillance missions to detect cocaine crops over southern Colombia, as part of the counter-narcotics efforts in Colombia, when engine trouble forced a difficult emergency landing in territory controlled by FARC.

Janis's widow, Judith Janis, and two of her sons accepted the Defense of Freedom Medal from Kelly.

"From the United States and this Marine, we thank you," Kelly said to Janis' family.
Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Janis, an Army aviator stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y., said that he was tremendously honored that his father's sacrifice was being celebrated.

"My father died doing what he loved," he said. "I think he would love that people are still celebrating his accomplishments. "He was never a showboat, but I think he would love that people are still celebrating his accomplishment."

Thomas Janis was a veteran Soldier with more than three decades of distinguished service that began in 1966. During his service, he accumulated more than 12,000 hours as an accomplished pilot and instructor pilot. He has been decorated with a Bronze Star, four Meritorious Service Medals and an Air Medal with Valor. He retired with the rank of chief warrant officer five.

The Department of Defense created the Defense of Freedom Medal following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to honor civilian and defense contractor employees injured or killed while supporting DOD activities.

"It doesn't seem like it's been 10 years, we still miss him, and we're never going to forget him," Jonathan Janis said.