Kentucky Guard officer to swim in honor of friend, a fallen SEAL
By BRAD STACY | The Morehead (Ky.) News | Published: April 24, 2019
MOREHEAD, Ky. (Tribune News Service) — Kentucky Air National Guard Capt. Nathan Tingle will spend his Memorial Day differently than most.
While many will be observing the holiday weekend honoring U.S. servicemembers who have passed on, Tingle will be doing so, too — just a bit differently.
Tingle, a Morehead native, typically spends a week in October rucking from Louisville — 140 miles across the state — to Morehead in memory of a friend and servicemember who was killed in the Global War on Terrorism.
Because he wasn’t able to do the ruck in 2018, Tingle said he’s got a new idea this year: to swim in Cave Run Lake in memory of Navy SEAL Collin Thomas, a childhood friend and fraternity brother who died Aug. 18, 2010, in Afghanistan.
“Fin swims are common as part of our training and just another way to test myself physically to honor Collin,” Tingle said. “This Memorial Day weekend, I will be swimming in Cave Run Lake, doing laps near the dam, starting and finishing each lap at Stoney Cove Recreation Area.”
Tingle’s nearly annual mission is to share Thomas’ name and his story, along with raising money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
The Special Operations Warrior Foundation ensures full financial assistance for a postsecondary degree from an accredited two or four-year college, university, technical, or trade school and offers family and educational counseling, including in-home tutoring, to the surviving children of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations personnel who lose their lives in the line of duty.
The Special Operations Warrior Foundation also provides immediate financial assistance to severely wounded and hospitalized special operations personnel.
More than $25,000 has been raised in Thomas’ honor.
Tingle has a fundraiser set up at www.firstgiving.com under “Fin for Collin.”
“It’s about spreading the word about Collin and those still fighting for us,” Tingle said in 2016. “There are great people still in America and it really restores your faith in humanity. There are men and women still getting killed, so I’m keeping that in the forefront. I’m doing the best I can to make sure people remember that Collin’s sacrifice does not go unnoticed and people still remember him and what he did for our country.”
Thomas was a highly decorated combat veteran during his nine combat deployments and more than 200 direct actions.
His combat awards include the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars with “V” devices (denoting valor), a Purple Heart, two Joint Service Commendation Medals with “V” devices, and a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with “V” device.
At Rowan County Senior High School, Thomas ran track and played varsity football. He attended Morehead State, where he was initiated as a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
He was selected by his Army ROTC instructors to attend the Army’s Airborne School, where he earned his basic military parachute qualification. Thomas left college to enlist in the Navy in February 1997.
After becoming a hospital corpsman and being meritoriously promoted to petty officer third class, Thomas attended Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL Training (BUD/S), graduating with Class 219.
After receiving additional training, Thomas received his Trident and reported for duty at SEAL Team 4 in February 2000.
He spent six years on various SEAL teams.