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Terminally ill veteran experiences 'the thunder of doom' one last time at Fort Moore

Columbus Ledger-Enquirer - 12/6/2023

Dec. 6—The "thunder of doom" echoed throughout the valley and hills as a cloud of white smoke plumed downrange Tuesday afternoon at the tank range at Fort Moore.

Round after round came screaming out of the barrel of an Abrams tank expelling a large orange cloud for a split second before the chainsaw-like buzz of the 7.62 machine gun onboard would send rounds downrange with the speed of Greek god Hermes.

Inside the tank sat Jay Tenison, a military veteran fighting Stage IV stomach cancer, whose last wish was to fire a tank one last time.

"I've lost a lot of body mass," said Tenison, who told reporters he had lost approximately 60 pounds due to his cancer.

Tenison served in the military as an armor soldier for four years and later served in the Army reserves for five years before becoming an electrical engineer.

Tuesday Tenison suited up and made his way to the range before hoisting himself up onto the tank.

Soon the call came.

"Targets coming up, round on the way," called a nearby soldier.

A thunderous boom soon sounded as the tank became a dragon breathing fire and sent a round hurtling towards its target.

Tenison fired a total of eight rounds from the tank's canon with every round hitting its target, according to 316th Cavalry Brigade Commander Col. Ryan T. Kranc.

Later a soldier yelled out, "Rounds complete," and it was over.

Tenison climbed down.

"That was wonderful," he was overheard telling another soldier.

After firing the tank Tenison was taken nearby where two tanks formed an archway where he would receive the Order of St. George black medallion, an honor bestowed upon cavalry members.

St. George has been portrayed as slaying dragons and is commonly portrayed as fighting mounted.

Tenison took to one knee while Kranc took a cavalry blade and placed it on each of Tenison's shoulders and then placed the medallion over his head.

"I think for a lot of us whose lives have been touched by cancer this really spoke to us," said Kranc.

"This will be stories that my family will be repeating to my daughters," said Tenison. "This will definitely be something to remember for ages."

Tenison said he was nervous going into the event and experienced some anxiety contemplating how he was going to get down into the tank due to his weakened state.

"I have one more item on my list that's been checked off and I feel good moving forward," Tenison said.

What's left on his bucket list? Tenison said he wants to go skydiving and fly some ultralights.

Tenison thanked several people and ultimately said, "I feel like I owe a huge debt of gratitude to everybody who put this together and made it happen."

"What I'm going to remember about this whole thing is all the friends I made along the way, the camaraderie that was put on display, and just the experience as a whole. I will be remembering that including pulling on the trigger the first time and feeling the thunder of doom one more time," Tenison said.

"This is what happens when a community supports itself," Tenison said.

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(c)2023 the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus, Ga.)

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