Arizona National Guard unit comes home one member short

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A Valley–based unit that spent a year serving in Afghanistan returned home to their families Saturday, but they came home without one of their own. By Catherine Holland A Valley–based unit that spent a year serving in Afghanistan returned home to their families Saturday, but they came home without one of their own. By Catherine Holland
A Valley–based unit that spent a year serving in Afghanistan returned home to their families Saturday, but they came home without one of their own. By Catherine Holland A Valley–based unit that spent a year serving in Afghanistan returned home to their families Saturday, but they came home without one of their own. By Catherine Holland
A Valley–based unit that spent a year serving in Afghanistan returned home to their families Saturday, but they came home without one of their own. By Catherine Holland A Valley–based unit that spent a year serving in Afghanistan returned home to their families Saturday, but they came home without one of their own. By Catherine Holland
A Valley–based unit that spent a year serving in Afghanistan returned home to their families Saturday, but they came home without one of their own. By Catherine Holland A Valley–based unit that spent a year serving in Afghanistan returned home to their families Saturday, but they came home without one of their own. By Catherine Holland
A Valley–based unit that spent a year serving in Afghanistan returned home to their families Saturday, but they came home without one of their own. By Catherine Holland A Valley–based unit that spent a year serving in Afghanistan returned home to their families Saturday, but they came home without one of their own. By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX – A Valley–based unit that spent a year serving in Afghanistan returned home to their families Saturday, but they came home without one of their own.

Staff Sgt. Thomas Rabjohn, who was also a police officer here in Phoenix, was part of the National Guard’s 363rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit. He was killed last October while trying to disarm an improvised explosive device or IED.

The homecoming for the 23 returning guardsmen was filled with hugs, tears and memories of a man who died saving others.

“He was the greatest man I’ve ever known,” said Sgt. John Pinnix

Just before he was killed, Rabjohn warned three other soldiers, saving their lives. Pinnix was one of those soldiers.

“I remember I had finished rolling up a piece of rope that we were using,” Pinnix recalled. “Next thing I know, I’m laying face-down 30 feet from where I was standing.”

Pinnix said Rabjohn is the reason he made it home.

The unit commander said that while they did lose one of their own, the 363rd accomplished quite a bit.

“This has been a good year and it’s been a good deployment for all these soldiers,” said Capt. Brian Dudley. “They’ve all grown a lot and learned a lot and been a part of some really good work.”

Pinnix and his wife Jaime, who was also deployed, said once they’ve had some downtime, they’ll be ready to go back.

“The National Guard has rotation schedules,” Staff Sgt. Jaime Pinnix explained. “Whenever they call us up, that’s when we’ll go.”

The 363rd's primary mission was to eliminate explosive hazards in assigned areas and provide ordnance disposal support for Operation Enduring Freedom. They deployed to Fort Lewis, WA for training, and then deployed to Afghanistan in April.

While Rabjohn’s family did attend the ceremony welcoming the returning unit, they did not want to speak to 3TV on camera.

Shortly after Rabjohn’s death, his family issued the following statement.

“Thomas was a wonderful father and husband. He died doing what he loved. He prided himself on his performance and knowledge of his job both in the military and on the police force. We loved him very much and will miss him even more."

Rabjohn is survived his wife and three teenage daughters.