Thomas, Eli E. III Command Sergeant Major (Retired)

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Thomas, Eli E. III Command Sergeant Major (Retired) United States Army, age 57 of Newton, NJ passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday April 21, 2021 at the Newton Medical Center. He was born in Fayetteville, NC, raised in Raleigh, NC, then served in various duty stations within and outside of the United States, including Colorado, Hawaii, Germany, and Japan before moving to Newton in 2005.

CSM (Retired)Thomas proudly served in the United States Army for over twenty-four years. His extensive military career culminated in his last position as a Battalion Command Sergeant Major. He served as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Battalion Commander on all operational and personnel issues as well as professional development of over 850 service members. His military honors include: Legion of Merit; Bronze Star; Meritorious Service Medal (2nd Award); Army Commendation Award (4th Award); Army Good Conduct Medal (7th Award); National Defense Service Medal (2nd Award); Noncommissioned Officer’s Professional Development Ribbon with Numeral 4; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon (3rd Award); Multi National Force and Observer’s Medal; Combat Infantry Badge; Parachutist Badge; Pathfinder Badge; Ranger Tab; Air Assault Badge; Canadian Parachutist Badge; and German Armed Forces Parachutist Badge.

CSM (Retired) Thomas was inducted in 1990 into the prestigious Sergeant Morales Club, which is presented to a very limited number of Junior Non Commissioned Officers, distinguishing himself as a top leader within the Army. He also received the Order of Saint Maurice awarded by the National Infantry Association and the Chief of Infantry to recognize the significant contribu-tions made by Infantrymen.

For more than forty years, Eli served the Department of Defense with distinction as both a soldier and as a civilian employee. He retired from the U.S. Army in 2004, having achieved the highest enlisted rank of Command Sergeant Major. Eli also held multiple senior level positions at Picatinny Arsenal as a Department of the Army Civilian. Notably, he served as the Picatinny Director of Housing and later as the Director of Emergency Services, and most recently as a Project Officer with the Office of the Product Director for Demilitarization. In addition to his federal civilian service, Eli served as a Project Manager and Deputy Project Manager for Chugach Alaska Corpora-tion.

Eli earned several degrees throughout his life and career including a Degree in Human Re-sources Management from Hawaii Pacific University, a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Webster University, and a Masters Certificate in Government Contracting from George Washington University. He was working to complete his Doctorate degree.

Eli was also serving as an Adjunct Instructor with the Sussex County Community College. A youth soccer and basketball coach for several teams throughout the area, he also served as a certified basketball and football referee and was a member of the referee associations. Eli had been a parishioner of the Saint Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Newton.

A loving, devoted, and extraordinary husband, father, son, brother and grandfather as well as a great friend to many, Eli will truly be missed by all who knew him. Eli was predeceased by his father Eli E. II. Survivors include his beloved wife Donna (nee Sampson), his sons Joshua and his wife Sara of Frisco, TX, Donovan and Ethan both of Newton, his daughter Elise of Newton as well as his mother Sylvia A. (nee Hinton) Sanders of Raleigh, NC. Also surviving are his brothers Gregory of Raleigh, NC and Theodore and his wife Barbara Thomas of Clayton, NC, his sisters Sonya Rogers of Raleigh, NC, Elisha Thomas and Elshawanna and her husband Lonnie Harvey of Alachua, FL, as well as his cherished grandchildren Jax and Ian Thomas.

Visitation will be held Tuesday April 27, 2021 from 2-4 and 7-9 PM in the Iliff-Ruggiero Funeral Home #156 Main Street (Rt. 206) Newton, NJ 07860. Funeral Services and Interment in Arlington National Cemetery will be held privately. In lieu of flowers memorials in Eli’s memory may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project Online condolences through Live Stream the Funeral Mass at

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