In 1938, Father Tom began a stay at St. John’s in Indianapolis, where he also taught at the girls’ academy. He enlisted in the Chaplain’s Reserve Corps on October 5, 1939, and was stationed with the 57th Infantry Division at Fort McKinley on Luzon in the Philippine Islands. Father Tom served both the men of his unit and the Filipinos in sacramental duties until the fall of the Islands in 1942. He was taken prisoner in April and on April 9, he began his participation in the infamous Bataan Death March. He served as a POW of the Japanese government at two camps: O’Donnell and Cabanatuan. He volunteered to work a burial and cemetery detail, while also ministering to all the prisoners’ spiritual needs.
In the fall of 1944 the Japanese prepared to transfer all POWs on the Philippines to the mainland to work as slave labor which was against the Geneva Convention. Father Tom boarded one of the first ships to move, the Arisan Maru, and spent two weeks of torture before the ship was unknowingly torpedoed by an American submarine. In his final three hours Father Tom heard confessions, gave absolution, and comforted his men as he became one of 1,792 men to die in the worst maritime disaster in United States history.
For his heroism, Father Tom posthumously received the Purple Heart, the Silver Star, and the Bronze Star. Among many other honors, Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School opened in his memory in 1953.