Thomas Wortham IV, a first lieutenant with the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s Troop A, 105th Cavalry as well as a member of the Chicago Police Department, was honored for his dedication to duty, selfless service and heroism in a halftime ceremony at Soldier Field during the Monday night game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers.
Wortham, a Chicago native, was murdered May 19 outside his parents’ Chicago home when four men attempted to steal his motorcycle.
“Like many of his peers, subordinates and leaders, we knew he was a great leader,” said Capt. Matthew McDonald, Wortham’s commander in Troop A. “He was always out front, pushing his Soldiers, never asking them to do what he wouldn’t do.”
Wortham enlisted with the Wisconsin National Guard in April 1999 and deployed to Iraq twice — a 12-month deployment in 2004 with the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, and a 10-month deployment in 2009 with Troop A, 105th Cavalry. He also spent a year on active duty performing airport security as part of Operation Noble Eagle in 2003.
After being commissioned in 2006, Wortham attended police academy and joined the Chicago Police Department, working in the Englewood district.
McDonald said he learned after Wortham’s death that the 11-year veteran brought the same warrior ethos to his police work and community. Wortham served as president of the Cole Park Advisory Council in Chatham, and worked to make the neighborhood safe for children to play in area parks.
“He didn’t talk about it,” McDonald said. “He embodied both the outstanding Soldier and the outstanding citizen.”
McDonald, who attended Reserve Officer Training Course at the University of Wisconsin around the same time Wortham was in ROTC at UW-Whitewater, wanted to commemorate his friend’s life and accomplishments but discovered that Wisconsin did not have an award recognizing both military and citizen service. After doing some research, he learned that the state of New York had a Citizen-Soldier award. He proposed a similar award to Wisconsin National Guard leaders, who embraced the idea enthusiastically.
Wortham was the first recipient of the Thomas E. Wortham IV achievement award, presented to family members Monday night. The Chicago Police Department developed a similar award, which was also presented Monday night.
“We don’t always have the opportunity while in uniform to recognize the things our Soldiers do in their civilian lives,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. “This award gives our organization an opportunity to recognize Soldiers and Airmen for their success both in and out of uniform.”
The Wisconsin National Guard and the Chicago Police Department said they intend to present the award each year to members who best represent the values and commitment to community and service Wortham emulated.
“We will annually recognize an outstanding sworn member of the department who has made significant contribution to the Chicago Police Department and his or her community,” said Jody Weis, Chicago Police Department superintendent. “The awardee must also have served in the Armed Forces. When someone asks what the award ribbon stands for, saying it is the Thomas E. Wortham IV award will be enough to explain its significance.”