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January 06, 2008

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Thank you.

gf, who can't post via software banning

I guess it was some kind of magical thinking onn my part, but i never worried about Andrew. I assumed that, because he was a real person to me, he would not die. It is still hard to believe.

I want to join the others who have thanked Hilzoy and gary for maintaining thhe thread as appropriate for Andy's memory.

One of the posters on the other thread said that Andy was the kind of soldier he was proud to have representing America. That's exactly how I feel.

I told a friend about Andy, his last letter, and the responses onn this site. She said that it was too bad that his life was wasted in an unnecessary war. I agree that the war was unnecessary, but not about the waste. He didn't consider his life wasted and I think he is a better judlge of that than anyone else.

I do wish that there was an afterlife so he couuld read thses threads. Igues it just shows that you have to say thhe things you want to say while the person is alive to hear it.

I was re-reading Andrew's first post to this blog, back in July 2006. (The discussion thread, as always for ObWing, veered merrily offtopic, but it was a good first post.)

I told a friend about Andy, his last letter, and the responses onn this site. She said that it was too bad that his life was wasted in an unnecessary war. I agree that the war was unnecessary, but not about the waste.

I appreciate Andrew's wish that we not consider his death wasted.

I think the entire damned Iraq war was a waste. And I think that for so many people to be killed in this waste of a war is a bloody infuriating waste.

But whether each individual death was "wasted" is something it's impossible to judge. If an Iraqi dies because she pushed her daughter out of the way of an armored car, is that a wasted death?

Andy died doing something that he considered important, and, knowing Andy, doing it as well as he possibly could. Yes, I think his death was a monstrous waste of the life he should have had - but, I don't want to believe it was a wasted death.

In the midst of this tragedy, thank you for fulfilling his wishes and broadening not only Andy's message to new recipients but also his words.

You are an angel hilzoy. An absolute angel. Many thanks to both you are gary for the work you have done the last few days.

Thanks for the photo! Very heart-warming and this helps put a face on the US armed forces fighting overseas instead of just a statistic.

I've wondered if there's something the rest of his unit could use. They're feeling his loss and I think Andy would like it if we could do a bit to make them a bit happier, too.

And, yeah, thanks to each of you for your vigilance and dedication in keeping the online wake respectful and kind.

Hilzoy, Gary, and the others here at ObWi are responding in kind to the quality of human being Andy was, but it's not surprising to me that like gravitated to like. I'm stunned at what's happened here over the past two days. Heartbreak and hope mingling so poignantly.

Thanks for the photo Hilzoy, and thanks for mentioning Andrew's brothers as well. In the spirit of Andy's request that we don't let his death turn things maudlin, you have served him so impressively well. He's lucky to have had you all as friends. You can indeed judge the quality of a man by his friends. I so hope he's somehow able to see this outpouring of admiration and love.

What Edward_ said. I've been lurking, tears in eyes, for the last two days. Quite remarkable. Thanks, hilzoy, yet again.

I didn't want to take the other thread slightly off-topic, so I'd like to ask here. A year or two ago, I remember a post and discussion about the military "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and Maj. Olmsted had some useful things to say -- but I don't remember what they were. I searched the archives but to no avail. Might anyone remember this and post a link, please?

It's people like you who help us to remember heroes like him. Thank you.

dbomp: There was a post on Don't Ask Don't Tell by G'Kar/Andrew in December: Military Musings.

(Though actually, I may be getting this confused with Hilzoy's And One More Thing - I think the comment G'Kar made on December 22, 2007 at 10:33 AM is the last thing Andrew ever said to me.)

Thanks for this Hil, and for all your efforts on this. I know how hard this must be on you yet you carry on. Andrew would be proud as hell.

Jes: the last thing Andrew ever said to me

For me it was about gays in the military. I spent a while yesterday tracking down exactly where he responded to me last. I still can’t believe that in the midst of all that he took the time to not only post but respond to comments.

This is heartbreaking. My condolences to the families. May these brave men rest in peace. I thank them for their service to our country.

It is humbling to read these words from such an honorable man.

That laundry exchange is priceless. Thank you so much for sharing it. It affirms that Andy is the kind of person I would have liked to have known in person, even if I disagreed with him on various things.

/**

Andy sounds like a fine man, a fine soldier, and a sad void in the lives of those who knew him.

I wish I had.

Hilzoy, I just came back and read your update. I bet Andy felt warmer just 'thinking' about hugging that laundry.

Thanks so much for doing this.

And, again, if we can contribute anything for a memorial of some kind please let us know. Maybe something along the line of what Kevin Hayden said if his family doesn't need anything.

His last post (sorry for the pun) was the best thing I've ever read--and wished I hadn't had to. But I'd expect that from someone who I enjoyed reading the most when I disagreed with him.

I was about to delete the nasty post, but I see hilzoy already got to it. Perhaps we should just quote duthmarbel every time: "Well, I'm glad you are here to show us that you would never invade anywhere because you don't like how they manage things in those places."

If we're allowed to veer a bit more off-topic here than in the main thread, I'd like to know if anyone has info on "Riverbend", the blogger of http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/>Baghdad Burning? Her last post is from October, on the difficulties of getting into and out of Syria. I'm sure that blogging is going to be extremely difficult, but a word that she's alright would be appreciated.

In one of G'Kar's last few posts, he wrote he was going to put the rest below the fold because he didn't know whether his ramblings were important. I almost responded to tell him that I enjoyed all of his posts and thought he was far more perceptive and intelligent than 99.99% of the rest of the world. I decided it didn't add to the discussion, so I let it go. I shouldn't have.

Hilzoy, Publius, Charles, Sebastian- ya'll have created a remarkable place here. Each of you astonish, challenge and inform me daily. I'll miss G'Kar, but I'll treasure the rest of you.

Thanks, Jes. What I was thinking of was much older, but the two you pointed out were quite on point.

Even in death, he soldiers on. Ever standing guard between us and the darkness. But now he does more than just prevent physical violence, answer religious virulence, help IA learn to stand up and join the good fight. Now he shines a light of understanding, showing what is right and wrong, and spreads the word far and wide. And then he seals his lessons into all of us who have learned from and appreciated his writings and humanity - with a brutal stab of grief.

Hilzoy, Publius, Charles, Sebastian- ya'll have created a remarkable place here. Each of you astonish, challenge and inform me daily. I'll miss G'Kar, but I'll treasure the rest of you.

Andrew was actually the reason I stopped commenting on this blog. I had an exchange with him a while back on a libertarianism thread here in which he responded to my points seriously, gave them much more respect than I now realize they deserved, and proceeded to shake my faith in what I had considered some fairly core principles. I felt so far out of my league in intelligence, lucidity, maturity, and experience that I decided to return to lurking, hoping to learn enough by reading his work to reengage him someday at a level worthy of his time.

Andrew made me want to become smarter, and so do the rest of you, and I can't thank you and him enough.

I did not know Andy nor did I ever read one of his posts until now. It's unfortunate that this is the first post that I have read of his but surely I'm glad I have. I very much enjoyed reading his thoughts. Even though I do not know him at points it was hard not to tear up. Let God be with his family and friends.

I never knew Andy, and had never read any of his posts until I was linked from Skippy's List just now, but I'm just... I don't know what to say. I didn't even know he existed up until a half hour ago, but still his beautifully eloquent final post brought tears to my eyes. He sounded like such an intelligent, articulate, kind, funny, courageous person, and my deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends, as well as the family and friends of CPT Casey.

Amazing. Despite not knowing him personally, and really being mostly a lurker at ObWi, I've been unable to get my mind off of Andrew's death since I learned about it.

But I must say that coming here and reading these threads about him kind of makes me feel a little bit better. Sort of like the comforting company when a family member dies.

So like others here have, I'd like to thank Hilzoy, Publius, Gary, Sebastian and Charles for the great job of caretaking for the memories of Andrew here. Y'all have basically been like grief counseling for me the past couple of days.

Morinao:

Just so you know, your 8:59 PM comment is the most remarkable of the hundreds of remarkable comments in tribute to Andrew, to my mind.

It was intelligent, lucid, mature, and experienced, and you are now promoted to the major leagues.

Andrew lived for 37 years. He thought you worthy of his time, and so you were, and are.

But I know exactly how you feel, having met Andrew personally.

If worthiness was a requirement for commenting here or anywhere, traffic would fall off sharply and I could stay in bed every day.

Andrew's death has ruined the Iraq debate for me, and I won't be commenting any further on that subject. I hate the war, I want it to stop, but I want a new Iraq to succeed beyond even George Bush's shallow dreams.

Andrew had his say on the subject and I've had mine. Any more words are ashes in my mouth.

Enough.

It was intelligent, lucid, mature, and experienced, and you are now promoted to the major leagues.

I could have promoted morinao to TiO, which is kind of like the Peoria Chiefs. Intelligent, lucid, mature, and experienced commentary isn't always required, no matter what Thullen says.

I'm smiling at *hugs laundry*. Tearfully, but smiling nevertheless. I note that Andy's the only one smiling in the photo. Somehow, that fits with the man who hugs warm laundry.

What Lewis Carroll says, too, on all counts.

I think Thullen was talking about here, not there, DaveC. TiO is the sort of blog where this might take place, in case anyone was wondering, though ideally sans career ramifications.

You know what's going to be hard? Looking at the next casualty graph.

What Thullen said (as usual) @9:52.

"Andrew made me want to become smarter, and so do the rest of you, and I can't thank you and him enough."

Thank you, too, Morinao, for saying something I haven't been able to form as a coherent though the last few sad days. This blog is much the cyber-café where, coffee in hand, we can read the exposition of people smarter and more erudite than we, and maybe learn a little bit...

...before they're gone.

Appreciation to you all. Thanks, G'Kar.

Andrew made me want to become smarter

Yes, and, for me, less of a smart-ass, hotheaded jerk.

Andrew clearly touched a lot of lives, here and elsewhere, and continues to do so. When folks say his life was "wasted", I have no idea what they're thinking.

His writing made a big impression because it was an expression of who he was, which was a thoughtful, considerate, honest, funny, straight up, no BS, good guy. That's not so common, as it turns out.

It's a damned shame he's gone, and like so many I was sickened by the news of his death. But at least we had his company while he was here. I'm grateful for that.

I'll miss him.

Thanks -

Wow. I knew he and his wife in college...didn't have a clue that he was still in the military. Much love to family, friends, and all who cared about him. I hadn't seen him in a long time, but I'll miss him anyway. Brightest blessings.

We should not mourn that Andy died, we should rejoice that such a man as he lived.
Yeah, right.
Admirable goal, maybe I can do it someday, but not now.
I think about the line from the "Battle Hymn of the Republic",
"as he died to make men holy let us die to make men free."
If I type any more it will get even more maudlin than it is already.

We should not mourn that Andy died, we should rejoice that such a man as he lived.
Yeah, right.
Admirable goal, maybe I can do it someday, but not now.
I think about the line from the "Battle Hymn of the Republic",
"as he died to make men holy let us die to make men free."
If I type any more it will get even more maudlin than it is already.

More touching words hilzoy. Thank you.

"Some people come into our lives and quickly go.
Some people move our souls to dance.
They awaken us to new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom.
Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon.
They stay in our lives for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never ever the same."

Read OW on and off from afar for a while now, but never commented before.

Very, very sad. Yet another slab of war caused grief to be dealt with.

Hope his loved ones, especially his wife, can eventually find the strength to go on without him and find peace.

RIP.

Thanks is all that comes to mind. Thanks for doing your job so I can live my life (as screwed up as it is). Thanks to your family and wife for sharing you with us. As to an afterlife, I too am not sure, but I believe if there is something, what we do here matters and I for one hope to have more pluses then minuses. Your book is closed but I hope I may have half of the pluses you earned in that book.

Godspeed Brother.

Thanks is all that comes to mind. Thanks for doing your job so I can live my life (as screwed up as it is). Thanks to your family and wife for sharing you with us. As to an afterlife, I too am not sure, but I believe if there is something, what we do here matters and I for one hope to have more pluses then minuses. Your book is closed but I hope I may have half of the pluses you earned in that book.

Godspeed Brother.

I've never read any of Andy's posts before.

I should have done...

"If I never meet you in this life, let me feel the lack"

I do. It seems to me that the world is poorer.

"Y'all have basically been like grief counseling for me the past couple of days."

It's a mutual thing for all of us.

The Major would have liked that.

Boston Globe:

Soldier killed in Iraq voiced no regrets
Army major's blog was filled with humor and logic

Major Andrew J. Olmsted's last regular blog post on the Rocky Mountain News's website was about as unassuming as an online diary of an American soldier's experience in Iraq could be.

The 37-year-old wrote about his unit providing the Iraqi Army with gifts and toys to pass out during a Muslim holiday, in the hopes of creating good will among local residents.

"Handing out gifts is great fun, but in Iraq you always have to be alert for the possibility that the enemy will take advantage of the opportunity to turn such an event to their advantage," Olmsted wrote Dec. 26.

Eight days later, Olmsted, a 1992 graduate of Clark University in Worcester and a 1987 graduate of St. John's High School in Shrewsbury, died from wounds suffered when his unit was hit with small arms fire in As Sadiyah, Iraq, according to the Department of Defense.

Olmsted, of Colorado Springs, and another soldier from his unit were among the first soldiers killed in Iraq in the new year.

Originally from Maine, Olmsted grew up in Northborough, and received his bachelor's degree from Clark in 3 1/2 years, his father, Wesley Olmsted, said.

In a telephone interview from Wisconsin, where the elder Olmsted moved the family in 1990, he said his son and his brother, Eric Olmsted of Watertown, were Eagle Scouts and good students.

Andrew Olmsted leaves his wife, Amanda Wilson of Colorado Springs, who also attended Clark; and his mother, Nancy and a sister, Catherine Olmsted, both of Grafton, Wis.

Wesley Olmsted said that his son was a gifted writer, and that the outpouring of support from readers of his "From the Front Lines" blog for the Rocky Mountain News (www.rockymountainnews.com) has been overwhelming.

"His voice was a voice of reason, and was a voice of logic," Wesley Olmsted said. "He would discuss issues only to make people think."

Wesley Olmsted said his son's commanding officers called him personally, and he said he hopes to meet other members of his son's unit.

"I just want to talk with them," he said. "Get to know them a little."

Mitchell S. Cohen, a Douglas selectman who went to Clark with Andrew Olmsted and attended his wedding at Hammond Castle in Gloucester 10 years ago, said his friend was outspoken without being brash.

"He was a bright guy who would say what he felt without offending anyone," Cohen said.

In fact, Andrew Olmsted remained outspoken even after his death.

He submitted a final blog entry to the Obsidian Wings website (http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/) to be published in the event of his death. The entry was last revised in July, according to a contributor.

In the entry, Andrew Olmsted looked back on his life with humor and little regret, and urged his friends and loved ones not to get overemotional.

"What I don't want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin," he wrote. "I'm dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren't going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss. (If it turns out a specific number of tears will, in fact, bring me back to life, then by all means, break out the onions.)"

Wesley Olmsted said his son gravitated toward military service at an early age, and signed up for ROTC and National Guard service the summer before he headed to Clark.

Andrew Olmsted wrote that he didn't want his death to be used for political purposes.

"My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side," he wrote.

Cohen said he felt especially bad for Andrew Olmsted's wife, Amanda, with whom he was "madly in love," Cohen said. "She put up with all of my faults, and they are myriad, she endured separations again and again. . . . I cannot imagine being more fortunate in love than I have been with Amanda," Andrew Olmsted wrote. "Now she has to go on without me, and while a cynic might observe she's better off, I know that this is a terrible burden I have placed on her, and I would give almost anything if she would not have to bear it."
© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal:

Soldier's story continues after death
By MIKE NICHOLS
mnichols@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Jan. 6, 2008

Andy Olmsted was too many things to neatly enumerate.

He was a husband and a brother and a blogger. He was a son to two of my very good friends.

He was a fan of the TV show "Babylon 5" and - for much of his life - he was a soldier.

A 37-year-old Army major who spent much of his youth in Massachusetts and much of the last 10 years living with his wife, Amanda Wilson, near Fort Carson in Colorado, he was killed last week in a firefight in Iraq.

What follows is part of what his parents, longtime Town of Cedarburg residents Wes and Nancy Olmsted, call his "valedictory" - a parting message Andy left for a friend to post on a Web site in the event of his death.
92550U.S Army Major Andrew Olmsted

Photo/The Rocky Mountain News/Javier Manzano, via AP

U.S. Army Major Andrew Olmsted, 37, of Colorado Springs was killed Thursday.
Related Link
Olmsted's blog, including his final post
Mike Nichols' Blog
News and Views
Advertisement

One, I think, he actually left for all of us.

* * *

"This is an entry I would have preferred not to have published, but there are limits to what we can control in life, and apparently I have passed one of those limits. And so . . . I must say here what I would much prefer to say in person.

"What I don't want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin. I'm dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren't going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourn my loss. (If it turns out a specific number of tears will, in fact, bring me back to life, then by all means, break out the onions.)

"I had a pretty good life. . . . Sure, all things being equal I would have preferred to have more time, but I have no business complaining with all the good fortune I've enjoyed. . . .

"I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes.

"I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don't drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands (we stay).

"If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don't cite my name as an example of someone whose life was wasted by our mission. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't. . . . On a similar note, while you're free to think whatever you like about my life and death, if you think I wasted my life, I'll tell you you're wrong. We're all going to die of something. I died doing a job I loved. When your time comes, I hope you are as fortunate as I was."

(Note: Andy Olmsted volunteered to return to active duty knowing he would almost certainly end up in Iraq. In his parting message, he never commented explicitly on whether he agreed with the decision to go to war there, but he did write about war in general and about what it means to be a soldier.)

"Soldiers cannot have the option of opting out of missions because they don't agree with them: that violates the social contract. The duly-elected American government decided to go to war in Iraq . . . I can no more opt out of missions I disagree with than I can ignore laws I think are improper.

"I do not consider it a violation of my individual rights to have gone to Iraq on orders because I raised my right hand and volunteered to join the Army. Whether or not this mission was a good one, my participation in it was an affirmation of something I consider quite necessary to society.

"So if nothing else, I gave my life for a pretty important principle; I can (if you'll pardon the pun) live with that. . . .

"I wish I could say I'd at least started to get (life) right. Although, in my defense, I think I batted a solid .250 or so. Not a superstar, but at least able to play in the big leagues. I'm afraid I can't really offer any deep secrets or wisdom. I lived my life better than some, worse than others, and I like to think that the world was a little better off for my having been here. Not very much, but then, few of us are destined to make more than a tiny dent in history's Green Monster.

"I would be lying if I didn't admit I would have liked to have done more, but it's a bit too late for that now, eh? The bottom line, for me, is that I think I can look back at my life and at least see a few areas where I may have made a tiny difference and, massive ego aside, that's probably not too bad.

"I write this in part, admittedly, because I would like to think that there's at least a little something out there to remember me by. . . . But on a larger scale, for those who knew me well enough to be saddened by my death, especially for those who haven't known anyone else lost to this war, perhaps my death can serve as a small reminder of the costs.

"Regardless of the merits of this war, or of any war, I think that many of us in America have forgotten that war means death and suffering in wholesale lots. A decision that for most of us in America was academic, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, had very real consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. Yet I was as guilty as anyone of minimizing those very real consequences in lieu of a cold discussion of theoretical merits of war and peace. Now I'm facing some very real consequences of that decision; who says life doesn't have a sense of humor?

"This may be a contradiction of my above call to keep politics out of my death, but I hope not.

"Sometimes, going to war is the right idea. I think we've drawn that line too far in the direction of war rather than peace, but I'm a soldier and I know that sometimes you have to fight if you're to hold on to what you hold dear.

"Good night, my love, the brightest star in my sky." - John Sheridan, Babylon 5

"This is the hardest part. While I certainly have no desire to die, at this point I no longer have any worries. That is not true of the woman who made my life something to enjoy rather than something merely to survive.

"She put up with all of my faults, and they are myriad, she endured separations again and again . . . I cannot imagine being more fortunate in love than I have been with Amanda. . . .

"I wasn't the greatest husband. I could have done so much more, a realization that, as it so often does, comes too late to matter. But I cherished every day I was married to (her). When everything else in my life seemed dark, she was always there to light the darkness. It is difficult to imagine my life being worth living without her having been in it. I hope and pray that she goes on without me and enjoys her life as much as she deserves. I can think of no one more deserving of happiness than her.

"I will see you again, in the place where no shadows fall." - Ambassador Delenn, Babylon 5

"I don't know if there is an afterlife; I tend to doubt it, to be perfectly honest. But if there is any way possible, Amanda, then I will live up to Delenn's words, somehow, some way. I love you."

Services for Andy Olmsted will probably be at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs in mid-January. E-mail mnichols@journalsentinel.com.

The New York Times:

In Blog, a Military Man Writes About His Own Death

By BRIAN STELTER
Published: January 7, 2008

Andrew Olmsted, a United States Army major who wrote an online blog for The Rocky Mountain News, prepared for the possibility of his death by writing a 3,000-word piece.

“I’m dead,” he wrote in July 2007 as he arrived in Iraq for an 18-month tour of duty. “But if you’re reading this, you’re not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.”

The major, who was 38, was killed Jan. 3 by small-arms fire from insurgents in Sadiyah, 100 miles northeast of Baghdad. The next day, a fellow blogger published Major Olmsted’s eloquent essay, leading to an outpouring of comments from more than 1,000 readers. His blog became exponentially more popular in death than in life, garnering more than 100,000 page views on Saturday.

Major Olmsted was one of the first “milbloggers,” an Internet term for members of the military who blog. Thousands of readers had followed his posts for more than five years, first on AndrewOlmsted.com and later on the Web site of The Rocky Mountain News, a newspaper in Colorado.

While bloggers have died in war zones before, several prominent military bloggers said they could not recall any previous instances of posthumous blog entries. Major Olmsted’s final post interspersed quotes from Plato and the movie “Team America” with reflections on his life and requests from his readers. He specifically asked that his death not be used for political purposes.

“We’re all going to die of something,” Major Olmsted wrote in his final post. “I died doing a job I loved. When your time comes, I hope you are as fortunate as I was.”

The ending of the post was almost uncomfortably personal, with a message to his wife of 10 years, concluding with “I love you.”

In March Major Olmsted approached his friend Hilary Bok, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, and asked if she would publish a post for him if he died during the war. She said she immediately agreed. He sent a rough draft at the beginning of June, and kept redrafting until July 15, the day he arrived in Baghdad.

“When I first read it, I cried,” Ms. Bok said.

In the essay, simply titled “Final Post,” Major Olmsted acknowledged that he would miss blogging.

“The nature of blogging, the exchange of ideas, was something he really enjoyed,” said David Montero, a Rocky Mountain News reporter who had spent several days with Major Olmsted for a front-page profile in June.

Before Major Olmsted left for Iraq, he met with the newspaper’s editors to discuss moving his blog to the newspaper’s Web site. The Army approved the arrangement, and he posted at least 38 times while in Kuwait and Iraq.

“He was building up a regular readership among people who appreciated his frontline view from the war,” said Deb Goeken, the managing editor of the newspaper.

Monday's Rocky Mountain Post story, with more details:


Olmsted's compassion a factor in his death
Army major was trying to spare three insurgents
John C. Ensslin and David Montero
Monday, January 7, 2008
The "Wedding Crashers," part of the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan., commanded by Maj. Andrew Olmsted (third from right, front row), 38, posed before deploying to Iraq. A sniper killed Olmsted on Thursday as he was trying to talk three suspected insurgents into surrendering. Capt. Thomas J. Casey (third from left, back row), 32, was also cut down rushing to aid Olmsted. Olmsted wrote a blog, "From the Front Lines," for the Rocky.

Javier Manzano / The Rocky

The "Wedding Crashers," part of the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan., commanded by Maj. Andrew Olmsted (third from right, front row), 38, posed before deploying to Iraq. A sniper killed Olmsted on Thursday as he was trying to talk three suspected insurgents into surrendering. Capt. Thomas J. Casey (third from left, back row), 32, was also cut down rushing to aid Olmsted. Olmsted wrote a blog, "From the Front Lines," for the Rocky.
Capt. Thomas J. Casey, shown in a family photo, was shot and killed in Iraq while rushing to Maj. Andrew Olmsted's aid.

Casey Family / Special To The Rocky

Capt. Thomas J. Casey, shown in a family photo, was shot and killed in Iraq while rushing to Maj. Andrew Olmsted's aid.
Related Links

* OLMSTED'S ROCKY BLOG: From the Front Lines
* Olmsted's final post on AndrewOlmsted.com
* ARCHIVE STORY: Olmsted prepares for war
* SLIDESHOW: Tribute to Major Olmsted
* VIDEO: Olmstead trains for Iraq

Related Stories

* Casey was on third Iraq tour

[...]

A sniper killed Maj. Andrew Olmsted as he was trying to talk three suspected insurgents into surrendering, relatives confirmed Sunday.

A sniper's bullet also cut down Capt. Thomas J. Casey as he rushed to Olmsted's aid during the small arms firefight in Sadiyah, Iraq, on Thursday.

"They were pursuing some insurgents," Casey's brother, Jeffrey, said. "Major Olmsted got out of his vehicle and was pleading with these three individuals to stop and surrender so that the team would not have to fire upon them and kill them."

"Unfortunately, there were snipers in the area, and apparently that's when Major Olmsted was hit," Jeffrey Casey added. "He didn't want to kill these individuals. He was trying to save their lives."

After the gunfire erupted, Thomas Casey went to help Olmsted, thinking that the three suspected insurgents were responsible for the shooting, his brother said.

"That's when he took his bullet," Jeffrey Casey said. "The fact that a sniper round caught him in the neck . . . that's just one of those fluke one-in-a-million shots."

Army officers relayed a brief account of the gun battle after they informed Casey's father, John, that his son was dead. Olmsted's father, Wes, also confirmed the account.

The fact that Olmsted tried to talk rather than shoot first wasn't surprising, his father said.

"That's him," Wes Olmsted said. "As a warrior - as my wife would call him - he never really wanted to fire his weapon as his first option. Now, I kind of wish he did."

Olmsted, of Colorado Springs, had been writing a blog, "From the Front Lines," about his experiences in Iraq for the Rocky Mountain News.

He and Casey were part of a team that was responsible for training Iraqi police and military forces.

Olmsted, 38, and Casey, 32, were the first two U.S. casualties of 2008 in Iraq. A third soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Will Beaver, was wounded in the neck during the gun battle, Jeffrey Casey said.

Casey said he and his father were golfing in Albuquerque on Thursday when his father let out an anguished howl after listening to a voice-mail message on his cell phone informing him that three Army officers were waiting at his door.

In stunned disbelief, Jeffrey Casey e-mailed Olmsted, hoping against hope that the officers who had come to the family's door were somehow mistaken.

"If you get this and the information turns out to be false, please have Tom contact us as soon as possible," Casey wrote, unaware that by then Olmsted also was dead.

On Sunday, the younger brother said the Army's account made sense, based on what he knew about Olmsted through his blog and what he knew of his brother.

"Absolutely, from what I know about Major Olmsted, I firmly believe that's the way it went down - and from what I know about my brother, I absolutely know that was the way it went down."

"Tom was just a stand-up individual. He always had his family's back, and in this case, his family was his (Army) team."

Wes Olmsted said the unit in Iraq had a memorial service for the two fallen soldiers Sunday.

"They're going to send us a tape of it," he said. "That will be difficult to watch."

In the wake of the deaths, readers have posted more than 125 comments on Olmsted's Rocky blog, some from as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

One comment came from Capt. John K. Thompson, who served with Olmsted and Casey.

"They both displayed tremendous courage under fire," he wrote. "I am proud to have served with them. They will be greatly missed. We were all blessed to have known them. They will always be my brothers in arms."

Wes Olmsted said the outpouring of sympathy from around the country has been "incredible" and that he is proud that his son's life touched so many.

He said his son really enjoyed writing a blog for the Rocky and another one called "Obsidian Wings." He said comments from people who read them have helped the family through their grief, though they are still in a state of shock and sadness.

Services for Olmsted are pending. Services for Casey are scheduled for Friday in Albuquerque.

Let me emphasize this video of Andy talking about why he went to Iraq. Amanda talks, as well.

It's from before Andy went to Iraq, back when he was training other soldiers for deployment there.

[Comment deleted by The Management. Political comments are welcome on other threads.]

I have read only Andy's last post and only a few comments on it. My heart is to his friends and family. He seems a verry intellectual person with an open mind on both politics and ethics. Just from his letter i can tell i would have liked to meet him. That aside, i wish to his friends that they think positively of him and beleive that he knew what he was getting into. Further more, beleive he had some great friends and trust in his feelings for you. From his words i dont think he could have met any better people. Goodluck on getting through these hard times. I dont even know him and i feel saddened by his letter.

my real heart felt condolences to Major Olmstead family and Captain Casey's family for paying the ultimate price for being free.........may you truly rest in peace, I did not know you existed till today.

thank you and may God Bless you

fare thee well

Gary, thanks for posting the articles. Here in Maine we aren't getting much news other than from family members and it is a comfort to myself,siblings, and cousins to be able to easily read about Andy. Thanks again Hilzoy for the beautful tribute to my cousin. We know how special Andy was and we are glad he had such wonderful people in his life. True measure of a friend (Gary) is that a friend accepts you for who you are, can disagree with you and still love you. You all are friends of Andy. Thanks from the bottom of my heart.

Thanks also to all who have recognized Capt. Casey's family's sacrifice and SFC Wil Beaver's. They are in our thoughts and prayers.
Lisa Cooney

Lisa, see also our discussion on A More Appropriate Thread.

This was the guy Andy identified as, and rightfully so.

I've lurked here for a few years now, and posted one or two trivial comments. I was never quite sure that Andrew and G'Kar were the same person, and this is definitely not the way I wanted to find out.

I, too, will miss him.

To the families of Major Olmstead and Captain Casey, my deepest condolences. There are no words. I pray that the God of all comfort will reach out to you now.

Andy blessed many, many people with his life, his humor, his writing, and his fellowship. He gave the best of himself, all along, and then all of himself.

His example of selflessness and devotion will stand as testament for those who seek such examples. We all need them.

Thanks, Andy. May your life and example continue to instruct, though we be robbed of your earthly presence.

I have never had a moment on the Internet bring me to near tears.

This is so tragic and sad.

To Amanda Olmstead and the rest of Andy's family, my deepest condolences.

Olmsted Olmsted Olmsted.....

(Trying to save Gary's fingers some work)

You know what's going to be hard? Looking at the next casualty graph.

Very true -- I was looking just earlier today at a graph of US deaths day by day in 2007 and felt sort of relieved that the beginning 2008 was not on the chart.

I did not know, or know of, Andrew Olmsted until I followed a link in an online news story today. I am now privileged to know from afar a man, a soldier and citizen, whose life eloquently demonstrated practical courage, leadership, conviction, love, and humanity.

Perhaps more significantly, he placed that life and those extraordinary qualities directly in harms way in service to his country. I live a comfortable life in Maine. Like virtually every citizen living in a "comfortable demographic" throughout this nation, I have not been called on to tangibly sacrifice, even in a small way, for this current war. It is both a personal and national shortcoming.

Men like Major Olmsted, Captain Casey, and Sergeant Beaver, and the men that served with them, represent a vital but inexcusably dwindling and under-recognized part of our society that performs their duty with inner-directed purpose and honor. My strong sense is that Major Olmstead and the others lived their lives with a quiet bravery. On a daily basis they must have been very graphically aware of the primal limitations that exist within the world and each of us, but they affirmatively met them with personal resolve, bravery, hard-work, intelligence, loyalty, and a sense of humor. If only all citizens in our country would daily strive, in their own way, to emulate that performance.

I offer my prayers and gratitude to those who were left behind. And in living I will also endeavor to demonstrate, for myself and others, the essence of what Major Olmstead, Captain Casey, and Sergeant Beavers bravely sacrificed for their families and this country.

I am stunned ...

I don't normally read blogs over the weekend, so this is the first I have heard of this.

I never met Andy, but I feel like I lost someone personally today.

Simply stunned...

Alan

My heart felt thanks does not seem enough to express to Andy's "Amanda" and family and friends for the price he paid for my freedom, but I do pray that God fills their hearts with His peace. Love to all of you who loved and will miss him so very much.

So very moving. My thoughts and prayers are with your family. I was an Army brat growing up and have the greatest respect for all in the military. Thank you, a 64-year-old American.

My condolenses to the familys of these brave men and to Maj. Olmsted, Capt Casey and Sgt. Beavers prayers comming at you.

I'm so terribly saddened by this news.
Know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Major Olmsted,

This my second post in dedication to you, sir.

Thank you for showing the best characteristics of an American Soldier and an American Citizen. Because of people just like yourself, we will be able to see peace with all people. There is not a person on Earth who would be able to deny if, if given the opportunity to know truly know you. This is the deciding instrument against destruction and hatred and you are a pioneer.

Thanks again and God has received you. We all stand according to our actions and your actions, Major Oldsted, are excellent in goodness.

To Andrew's Family:

I am the mother of a US Navy Riverine. My son returned from his 1st deployment to Iraq in October, and will return for a second in Nov.'09. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful for his safe return to American soil. His homecoming was a great celebration indeed. I'm sorry that you didn't have the same opportunity. I learned of Andrew's blog through a Fox News story a few minutes ago, and felt compelled to check out the site. What a wonderful man he must have been, and I am so sorry for your loss. His sense of humor and insight are inspirational.

As for his uncertainty of an afterlife, I'm sure he and Capt. Casey's "Final Inspections" were positive ones, and they are resting peacefully in the comforting arms of God.

God Bless You.

I was taking a vacation from the internet, and return on Monday to discovery that I should have made my vacation permanent: I would have much enjoyed remaining ignorant of Andy's death. My heart goes out to his family and his wife, and to everyone who knew him.

Two of my best friends took the same path Andy did in 1965 on a jungle trail in Vietnam. To Andy's wife I humbly repeat an old, inane refrain, that "the 'pain' of his loss will fade with time." From experience, that is no comfort to her at this time; but blissfully, his memory will be there everyday to help her as the future unfolds. Though it is impossible for her to imagine the truth in that sentence; nevertheless, it will come to pass. As a fellow survivor of a similar loss, I say, "Hang in there, kiddo."

Thank you. Thank you.

God bless our troops.

My first time here; my first "Andy" post read.

I've gone and totally developed a crush on this angel now... This Babylon 5/Princess Bride quoting, incredibly cool, eloquent angel.

My absolute best thoughts go out to his wife... and, indeed, to all his family and fellow service folks.

very moving. i wish i had the appropriate words, but i've just been coming up short on words. it just doesn't seem real.

Thank you.

We are grateful for your lives, and you will be remembered. Rest in peace, brothers.

Our hearts our sadder from hearing of the loss of Andrew Olmsted. Thoughts and prayers
will never come enough to all that sacrifice
for our freedom.

Thank you for publishing this after Major Olmstead's death. I had never read a blog before, but I was in the Air Force and still would be - somewhere in the Middle East on my own decision - if I had not ruined my knees. He was a brave man doing what he believed in. And he blogs that his site will eventually disappear. Maybe in the vast world of the internet, but the words of wisdom, and ideas for thought will last in all who read him.
Erin A. Currie

Godspeed!

God bless you Maj Olmsted. Thank you for your sacrifice. May you rest in peace and your family live long and prosper.

LCDR Elan Singer, MC, USNR

I just wanted to add my condolences on the loss of this terrific chap. Here's to him.

Andy, you are wrong about one thing - there is an afterlife. May God be with your family. I regret not knowing you.

This gets me:
"Major Olmsted got out of his vehicle and was pleading with these three individuals to stop and surrender so that the team would not have to fire upon them and kill them."

Unfortunately, Major Olmsted thought his generosity would be greeted warmly by terrorist scumbags who don't play by the Marquis of Queensberry rules.

Rest easy, Soldier.
Duty Honor Country

SFC Cheryl McElroy
US ARMY (RET)
Iraq War Veteran

God bless you and your family. You are a great American.

I sit here at my desk at work crying, having just read Major Olmsted's final blog. I don't think I've ever read anything so moving. I can't imagine the pain and loss his wife and family must be suffering. My heart goes out to them. Thank you Andrew for fighting for my freedom. I'm so sorry.

An addition: To the families and friends of Major Olmsted, Captain Casey, Sergeant Beaver. Freedom isn't free and never will be! I see this and experience it every day as a disabled veteran. Normally I have the words to say what I want - this time I am having a hard time. They were brave men who did not wish to take lives and instead lost their own. Regardless of Andy's belief in the afterlife, there is something else out there. So listen closely famalies and friends and you will hear the sound of angels singing as these brave men now WATCH out for you from somewhere up above. My heart, soul and prayers are with you at this time. And the Major's words will remain with me for a very long time.

Erin

My biggest HOPE is that the dear Major had that milisecond to discover, "Yes. There is a hereafter...and it is eternal." Into Father's arms I pray you rose. Andrew fought with honor and pride. Men of same heart remain at his side. We know not the face nor maybe your name; but we are loving you just the same. We pray for you daily and do not forget; the price you are paying without regret. Nite and day. Day and nite. Someone is with you in every fight. It is not God that causes this hate. It is not the God we love to hate. It is not God that is to blame. It is man's heart thats full of shame. If not free will we had down here. Slavery would be the god we'd fear. So we fight and we hate the brothers we should love. While or Father has tears in his eyes above. FREE WILL.

As most wives do, we sit and wonder when we haven't heard from our loved ones. I can not imagine that knock on my door. This blog made me cry. I also think its a gift to his family friends and even those like myself who didnt know him. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. The blog maybe forgotten, YOU never will be.

God Bless You and all of our Heros in Iraq!!!

I'm so very sorry.

Thank you Andy for living the life you lived. This was unfortunately the first of your posts I have read. I believe your life will go on forever. The written words of wisdom fade away slowly. The spoken words of love for ones' country go on forever. If there is an afterlife, I hope I get to meet you right after I find my dad…

About all I can say or do is stand straight and offer a resolute salute to these men. If any of us have any contact with a young person today, we must without fail teach them what it means to be as honorable as the Major and his fallen comrades.

I feel empowered by this man honesty. Let us not forge on in our quest for serenity mourning the loss, rather I intend to utilize his sentiments and life for the betterment of my own person, and as a new found motivation to impact the society in which we find ourselves a prisoner of.

andy,

SEMPERFI,thankyou for your service and May God bless your Amanda and family with the peace which surpasseth all our understanding. UHRAAH!

Major Andrew J. Olmsted, may god bless your loved ones. I want to express my condolence to Andrew's wife Amanda, there are many of us, who appreciate and acknowledge the brave men such as you husband. I will pray for you and your family tonight. I wish I had found this blog sooner and had the opportunity to read Andrews words.

Fred C.

God Bless.
Him. His family, relatives, friends... everyone. Because what every person on this planet needs is peace.

I never knew him personally, and sadly, I never will. If this alone is saddening, I can hardly imagine the grief that his family is going through.

God Bless.
Amen.

Thank you for your service. God Bless you and may He comfort your wife and family.

I had not started reading your blog until today. Very surreal. May God Bless your family and loved ones. You were a good person for doing what you did. God Bless America.

I read recently, I think in a book review, and quoting the author, that "People who are lucky in love are pretty good at slinging it themselves." I am happy that Andy was lucky in his love for Amanda and that he knew it. And now Amanda knows it, if she wasn't sure before. And it is clear that Andy was pretty good at slinging it himself. May his love continue to sustain her and all his family who must also have been good at slinging it themselves.

[Comment deleted by The Management. Political comments are welcome on other threads.]

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