Soldier from Citra killed in Afghanistan
Published: Monday, December 31, 2012 at 11:26 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 31, 2012 at 5:21 p.m.
When Wanda Thompson saw the two U.S. Army soldiers pull into her driveway and get out of their car Saturday afternoon, she knew right away they were there to deliver bad news.
“They didn't have to tell me,” said the Thompson, 48. “I watch television. It's the only time the Army comes to your house.”
Her son, Pfc Markie T. Sims of Citra, was killed in Panjwal, Afghanistan, from trauma to the head when an improvised bomb exploded next to his vehicle.
“I didn't cry right away,” she told the Star-Banner by telephone from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where she flew to identify her son's body.
The crying came later. First, she had to call her mother -- Sims' grandmother -- Ella Mae Thompson, who helped raise Sims.
Ella Mae Thompson said when she got the news Saturday she was sitting in her overstuffed recliner facing the television, on top of which was perched a picture of the 20-year-old Sims in his uniform. Half a dozen pictures of Jesus line the opposite wall.
Her phone rang. It was Wanda.
“Mama. The Army people are here. Something's happened to Scooter,” Wanda told her.
“I knew something wasn't good. When I got there, there were two of them soldiers in the house,” Ella Mae recalled. “(Wanda) was crying.”
Sims had attended North Marion High School and graduated from Marion Technical Institute in 2011. He told his family soon after that he was joining the military.
“I didn't want him to go,” recalled Wanda Thompson, “because of the stuff that happens there. That's my baby. He was a boy. I didn't want him to go.”
Sims was assigned to the U.S. Army's 38th Engineering Company, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
In October, Sims married his wife, Shakeli. She is pregnant with Sims' child.
Randolph Thompson, Markie Sims' grandfather, remembers hearing the news of his grandson's death.
“It was sad hearing it. He was a real nice, responsible boy. Me and my wife had raised him all his life. He was never any trouble,” Randolph said.
“He made his decision about joining the army. That's what he wanted to do,” Thompson said, sitting in his living room, his eyes beginning to tear.
“I don't know why they're fighting over there,” he said, looking at his wife, as if waiting for an answer.
Craig Damon was Sims' head football coach when Sims played football at North Marion High School.
Damon has coached hundreds of children, but he easily remembered Sims.
“A very hardworking young man who always had a smile on his face,” Damon said during a telephone interview with the Star-Banner. “Regardless of how things were going, you could always count on him to have a smile on his face to motivate me even when I didn't want to be motivated sometimes.”
“Everybody was just shocked (learning of the death). You hear about it, you see about it on TV, but you never think it's going to be anybody you know, somebody personal,” Damon said. “It just goes to show you that life is very fragile and you need to make sure you take advantage of the opportunities you have with your loved ones and don't take anything for granted.”
Sims' brother, Demarrio, also played football at North Marion.
Demarrio was in the front yard with his mother when the two soldiers arrived.
“My mother and I were having a conversation about (Markie's work in Afghanistan) when the car pulled up,” Demarrio Sims said.
“We were very, very close,” Demarrio said of his brother.
Demarrio was slated to start his basic training for the Army Jan. 6, his brother's birthday.
His training date has been pushed back following his brother's death.
He knows there's a good chance he also will be sent to Afghanistan to fight.
“But that's one of the reason I'm joining, because of him,” Demarrio said. “That's what's going to motivate me to get through basic training.”
Markie Sims' friend, Terry Smith, was planning to join the Army with Sims.
“But I didn't want to go into the infantry, so I backed out at the last minute,” Smith said.
Instead, Smith is working to complete his associate's degree in health science.
“Our plan was for me to join with an associate's degree. And he said, “'OK, I'll be waiting for you,'” Smith recalled.
“It was our future. I don't know now. I'm just lost,” Smith said.
Damon said Sims' sacrifice will not be forgotten.
“The kids in our school now know that this guy sacrificed his life for all of us, for our freedom and all the things we take for granted,” he said. "To me, that's the ultimate sacrifice, to have your life taken while you're serving your country.”
Sims is also survived by his father, Henry Sims; brothers, Henry Sims Jr. of Reddick, Defonzio Sims of California, and Henry Lee Daniels of Ocala; and sister Lashay Daniels of Gainesville.
Reach Fred Hiers at firstname.lastname@example.org and 352-867-4157. Sports editor Andy Marks contributed to this story.
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