The House of Representatives lost one of its own last month when Thomas Coonan, a trusted member of the House chamber security detail and Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms, suffered a fatal heart attack at his home in Washington, DC. Tom spent more than 15 years standing at the doorway to the Speaker’s Lobby, just off the House floor. His time at that post spanned four Speakerships.
Earlier this week, Speaker Boehner paid tribute to Tom’s life and service to the country, a long and distinguished record that dates back to when he entered the military in 1963.
“For those who served with Tom Coonan, knew him, and were protected by him, his presence is sorely missed,” Boehner said in an official testimonial placed in the Congressional Record. “But because of his steadfast and constant service, the vibrant commotion of democracy goes on. … Having stood guard faithfully at the passage to the People’s House, Thomas Coonan now stands in the halls of eternity with Our Creator – forever strong, forever vigilant, and forever at peace.”
Here is Speaker Boehner’s full tribute to Thomas Coonan:
“It is my privilege today, on behalf of the men and women of our institution, to honor the American life of Thomas Coonan.
“For most Members of Congress, the gateway to the chamber of the United States House of Representatives is the doorway to the Speaker’s Lobby.
“For many years, Tom Coonan stood at that door in the service of his country and the service of democracy. As a trusted member of the House Chamber security detail and the Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms, it was his post.
“For more than 15 years, Tom Coonan stood at the passage to the People’s House, where he was a familiar and comforting sight to all who passed regularly through our chamber.
“But Tom Coonan was standing vigil for American democracy long before his first day of work for the House.
“Before he served his country with the House Sergeant-at-Arms Office, Tom Coonan served his country with distinction in our armed forces.
“He began his military career in 1963, and served as an Assistant Intelligence officer, as the commander of Amphibious Group Two, until 1966.
“For the next decade and a half Tom held a number of civilian positions. Then, in 1981, once again feeling the tug of his desire to serve the nation he loved, Tom volunteered for a recall to reserve active duty.
“Beginning in 1990, he served as the U.S. Commander-in-Chief Pacific’s Representative for the Southwest Pacific, Suva, and Fiji.
“In September 1995, he joined the House Sergeant-at-Arms Office as a member of the Chamber Security staff. He was always stationed in the Speaker’s Lobby – the gateway to the chamber at the heart of the democracy Tom spent most of his adult life protecting.
“On August 23, 2012, tragically, while members were away for the August District Work Period, Tom Coonan suffered a fatal heart attack at his home in Washington, D.C. He is to be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
“For those who served with Tom Coonan, knew him, and were protected by him, his presence is sorely missed. But because of his steadfast and constant service, the vibrant commotion of democracy goes on. And as the House returns this week for legislative business, its members and staff do so with unfailing gratitude for the life he led.
“Having stood guard faithfully at the passage to the People’s House, Thomas Coonan now stands in the halls of eternity with Our Creator – forever strong, forever vigilant, and forever at peace.”