Thomas Retzer was born on March 10, 1973, in San Diego, California. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on May 10, 1993, and completed basic training at NTC San Diego in July 1993. Retzer next completed Interior Communications Electrician training at NTC San Diego and NTC Great Lakes, Illinois, in August 1994, followed by Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training at NAB Coronado, California, from August 1994 to April 1995. After completing Basic Airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia, in May 1995, Petty Officer Retzer served with SEAL Team THREE at NAB Coronado from June 1995 to February 2001. His final assignment was with Naval Special Warfare Development Group at Dam Neck, Virginia, from March 2001 until he died of wounds received in combat on June 26, 2003, in Afghanistan. During this time he had deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom multiple times, and to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom during the opening stages of that campaign in 2003. Thomas Retzer was buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California.
His 2nd Bronze Star Medal w/Valor Citation reads:
For heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy as a member of a special operations unit that conducted combat operations deep behind enemy lines from 29 April to June 26, 2003. Petty Officer Retzer was a member of a combined joint task force conducting special operations in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM against Al Qa'ida and Taliban enemy forces in Afghanistan. Petty Officer Retzer performed superbly under arduous combat conditions in areas known to harbor terrorist, paramilitary forces. Placing himself at great personal risk, he maintained full mission focus during numerous dangerous combat operations. On 25 June 2003, Petty Officer Retzer was operating in and around the town of Gardez, an area rife with suspected enemy personnel and marred by repeated hostilities towards U.S. forces. When unseen enemy forces ambushed his team, Petty Officer Retzer valiantly returned fire, bravely and effectively engaging the enemy. As the gunfight intensified, he was mortally wounded by enemy fire and sustained injuries that untimely claimed his life. This teammate and steadfast sailor made the ultimate sacrifice for the people he loved and the freedoms he cherished. By his zealous initiative, courageous actions, and unfailing dedication to duty, Petty Officer Retzer reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
The Combat Distinguishing Device is authorized.