by Gary Farber
Andrew Olmsted was my friend.
He honored me with that.
He's in my thoughts, every day, several times a day.
Please forgive me for being very personal in this post. I am also apt to edit it and change some of it.
Hilzoy on January 04, 2008:
Andrew Olmsted, who also posted here as G'Kar, was killed yesterday in Iraq. Andy gave me a post to publish in the event of his death; the last revisions to it were made in July.
Andy was a wonderful person: decent, honorable, generous, principled, courageous, sweet, and very funny. The world has a horrible hole in it that nothing can fill. I'm glad Andy -- generous as always -- wrote something for me to publish now, since I have no words at all. Beyond: Andy, I will miss you.
My thoughts are with his wife, his parents, and his brother and sister.
As mine also always are, every day. I think of Wes, Andrew's father. I think of Nancy, Andrew's mother. I think of Amanda, Andrew's wife. I think of Eric, known as "Enrak" when he was commenting on blogs, primarily Andrew's.
I've met them all.
I think of Corrine, Eric's wife, and writing by her I read via Wes, and now I'll think of Catherine, Andrew's sister.
I think of these men:
Wes Olmsted wrote me this of himself and his Nancy on November 10th, 2010:
We both think of Andy every day, it seems so impossible that he has been gone for so long. Sometimes I come down the stairs and open up my emails just hoping that somehow he has written again.I did want to let you know that there is a new "Andrew" in town. Eric and Corinne have named their new son William Andrew Olmsted. We spent Thanksgiving with them and really enjoyed our time with them. How Andy would have enjoyed this young man!Life goes on but not as well as it used to. Nancy and I will be moving back to Maine next June, after she retires. We are having a house built in central Maine at the head of Penobscot Bay. The best part is that we will be close enough to Eric, Corinne, and Will to see them much more often.
Andrew and I co-blogged at Winds of Change, where he blogged for years, reporting on Iraq.
Andrew most famously blogged for the Rocky Mountain News.
This was his final post there: Seeking Support.
Andrew's death was the entire front page of the Rocky Mountain News that day. My two physical copies of the paper have never been more than 10 feet from me, other than in transit while moving, since that day. When I can, I'll scan and post the images.
I can't at this moment, quote their obituary, but the RMN also wrote this:
THE DEATH OF ANDREW OLMSTED
Major Andrew Olmsted, who posted a blog since May 2007, was killed in Iraq on Jan. 3, 2008. Olmsted, who had been based at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, began blogging after his unit was sent to Iraq with the mission of helping train the Iraqi Army. A sniper killed Olmsted as he was trying to talk three suspected insurgents into surrendering. A sniper's bullet also cut down Capt. Thomas J. Casey. They were in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad.
Olmsted was determined to make a difference in Iraq. "The sooner the Iraqi government doesn't need U.S. support to provide security for its people, the sooner we will probably be asked to leave."
Andrew's final post here, was introduced by Hilzoy.
I'm going to excerpt some of Andrew's words from it:
"I am leaving this message for you because it appears I must leave sooner than I intended. I would have preferred to say this in person, but since I cannot, let me say it here."
G'Kar, Babylon 5
"Only the dead have seen the end of war."
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, like G'Kar, I must say here what I would much prefer to say in person.
"When some people die, it's time to be sad. But when other people die, like really evil people, or the Irish, it's time to celebrate."
Jimmy Bender, "Greg the Bunny"
"And maybe now it's your turn
To die kicking some ass."
Freedom Isn't Free, Team America
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 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.) I had a pretty good life, as I noted above. 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 in my life. So if you're up for that, put on a little 80s music (preferably vintage 1980-1984), grab a Coke and have a drink with me. If you have it, throw 'Freedom Isn't Free' from the Team America soundtrack in; if you can't laugh at that song, I think you need to lighten up a little. I'm dead, but if you're reading this, you're not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.
I suppose I should speak to the circumstances of my death. It would be nice to believe that I died leading men in battle, preferably saving their lives at the cost of my own. More likely I was caught by a marksman or an IED. But if there is an afterlife, I'm telling anyone who asks that I went down surrounded by hundreds of insurgents defending a village composed solely of innocent women and children. It'll be our little secret, ok?
Andrew was killed by a sniper.
Captain John Thompson wrote on January 5, 2008 09:22 AM
"Major Olmsted died while attempting to get the enemy to surrender so we would not have to kill them.
Captain Casey could not leave his commander on the ground.
They are the bravest men I have known. They are both heroes. We will carry their example and continue the mission."
LTC EJ Niksch wrote on January 3, 2008 09:40 PM:
MAJ Andy Olmsted was my Battalion XO last year...he was a tremendous officer and good friend of mine. This is a tragedy not only for his family, but his Army family because Andy was an honest, forthright officer who "told it like it was" and he had an extremely promising career. He made a difference in the lives of the people he worked with and worked for because of his candor and gregarious nature. I am priveleged to have served with a Soldier like MAJ Andy Olmsted.
LTC Niksch was a good friend to Andy. He spoke at Andrew's funeral. He was very kind to both Hilzoy and myself in email before that, as I know he was with Andrew's friends, fellow officers, and those who served with Andrew. It was good to meet and speak with him at Fort Carson.
CAPT John Thompson wrote on January 4, 2008 06:37 AM:
Major Andrew Olmsted and Captain Thomas Casey were both killed when we were ambushed. They both displayed tremendous courage under fire. 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.
Betsy wrote on January 4, 2008 11:42 PM:
This is such a tragedy. I just found out today that Andy was also participating in a fundraiser for the Pretty Bird Woman House, a women's shelter on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Can you imagine that? All the way from Iraq, in the middle of a war, and while he saw the suffering of all the Iraqi women and children, he also had enough heart left over to be concerned about the plight of the shelter. It's unbelievable really.
What a tremendous person. And what a loss for the world. Bless you Andy for being a man who was really in continuous service mode.
Andy supported many causes. The number of people who have written about his death and life, and how Andrew Olmsted changed their lives, and they witnessed him change the lives of others, are innumerable. Tributes were published in countless blogs, and countless comments. Hundreds of thousands of people read Andy's Final Post.
The Minstrel Boy
by Thomas Moore
The Minstrel Boy to the war is gone
In the ranks of death you will find him;
His father's sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;
"Land of Song!" said the warrior bard,
"Tho' all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!"
I met Andrew and Amanda and had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, after which we went to the May 29th, 2004 Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash.
We exchanged hundreds of emails and comments. I introduced him to Hilzoy, and ObWi, where he blogged, first as MAJ Andrew Olmsted -- he was CPT Olmsted when I first knew him -- and then after Army blogging policy tightened, as "G'kar," both here at Obsidian Wings, and at All Alone In The Night.
I went to his funeral at Fort Carson. Hilzoy and I were the two representatives of his blogging friends. I "knew" his brother Eric since we were commenting back and forth at Andrew's original blogs . I've stayed in touch, as I can, with Wes and Nancy, and slightly with Eric.
Hilzoy on January 06, 2008:
[...] Some of you have wondered why he blogged here under both names, and why we weren't clearer about that fact. Andy stopped blogging here (and on his old site) because he discovered that by doing so, he was violating a DoD regulation (as he describes here.) He loved blogging, though, and so, some months later, he asked whether he could post under another name. I think I made some feeble attempt to talk him out of it, but my heart wasn't in it: I loved what he wrote, and I always wanted to see more of it.
Here, for what it's worth, is a little memorial to his silliness. It's not by miles the best I have, but I don't have the heart to go looking for better ones; this one leapt to mind since it's from the day before he died. The relevant background: Andy and I were chatting on Adium; some calamity had befallen the heat in Andy's room, and he had mentioned being quite cold; I had gone to put my laundry in the dryer, and had just returned.
Andy: *waves to laundry*
Me: *laundry would wave back, but has been trapped in dryer*
Andy: *runs to free laundry*
Me: *laundry thinks: our saviour!*
Me: *laundry offers toasty warmness to Andy*
Andy: *hugs laundry*
Me: *laundry hugs Andy*
Me: *though, in fairness, laundry would hug anyone who let it out of horrid dryer*
The fact that no one will ever, spontaneously, write *hugs laundry* to me again seems unimaginably sad.]
From the Rocky Mountain News:
""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.""
I think Andy would be astonished at the amount of attention his last post received. He could be pretty self-effacing that way: he was about as far as it's possible to be from the sort of blogger who writes because he's convinced that the world is just waiting for his pearls of wisdom. Andy was never sure what kind of impact, if any, what he wrote had. I think he wrote partly because he liked it, but partly because he thought: even if you don't know that anyone will read what you write, all you can do is try your best to put reasonable arguments out there, in the hope that somehow, somewhere, they might do some good.
That was the kind of person Andy was.
He'd be embarrassed by all the fuss, and genuinely surprised, but deep down, I think it would have meant the world to him. I just wish he could be here to see it.
I have a half-written email in my Drafts file, that will never be delete while that email account lasts, and I've copied it elsewhere
As I was in the middle of a second draft, I received an email that he had been killed a few hours before.
While I was in the middle of the first draft, I was writing to Andy, it turned out, the moment he was shot, as he was trying to talk some Iraqi insurgents into surrendering, having walked out to them, to try to talk them into it, rather than have his troops fire on them.
Andrew Olmsted was a hero. Not all who serve in the military are heros. You don't become a hero simply by serving. You don't become a hero simply by being killed in action. You don't become a hero simply by dint of winning your CIB.
You die a hero by living the life Andrew Olmsted did.
Andrew Olmsted was my friend.
I miss my friend.
I want my friend back.
I will never have my friend back. His wife, Amanda, will never have her husband back.
Wes and Nancy will never have their son back. Eric and Corrine will never have their brother back. All of Andrew's family, many of whom I could name, but many of whom I cannot, will never have him back.
None of us will ever have him back.
But his writing will live on as long as the internet does.
We have that.
And the world has Eric and Corinne's son, William Andrew Olmsted.
Wes Olmsted wrote me on Friday, September 11, 2009 9:42 AM:
Capt. Thomas Casey Children's fund
P.O. Box 1306
Chester, CA 96020
Everyone who ever knew Andy misses him.His loss is incalculable.His life was a universe, as each and every human's life is a universe.
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.
Please forgive me if I've been overly personal in this post.
"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.
I wish I believed in an afterlife, or reincarnation, too. May all who believe Andrew lives on in many ways believe so, because that I know is true.
Some of us may err on the side of over-reaction. You may appeal any such decisions by email to Obsidian Wings <[email protected]>. Don't be surprised if we, or I, over-react, and get back to you approximately never.]
Posted by Gary Farber, semi-intentionally/accidentally using Eric Martin's account.
ADDENDUM, January 20th, 2011:Andrew J. Olmsted:
Major Andrew J. Olmsted, age 37, died in Iraq on January 3, 2008 while serving with the US Army. He was born on February 1, 1970 in Bangor, Maine. Major Olmsted is survived by his wife, Amanda Wilson of Colorado Springs, his parents, Wesley and Nancy Littlefield Olmsted of Grafton, Wisconsin, a brother, Eric and wife, Corinne Olmsted of Watertown, Massachusetts, a sister, Catherine Olmsted of Grafton, Wisconsin, mother-in-law, Kathleen Wilson of Kingston, New Hampshire, brother-in-law, Ian D. (Gina) Wilson of Hudson, New Hampshire, niece, Elisha Wilson of Hudson, New Hampshire, grandmother-in-law, Ruth A. Wilson, North Andover, Massachusetts. Andy received BA Degree in History and Government from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was an avid Red Sox fan; he enjoyed reading, watching movies and playing war games. He loved going to Disney World. Andy was also an Eagle Scout. Andy loved writing and was writing a blog for the Rocky Mountain News from Iraq. Major Olmsted earned his commission through Reserved Officer Training Corps on 11 December 1992. He earned great respect from those he served with, beginning with his first assignment at the 66th Armor Battalion at Fort Hood, TX, where he served as A Company Platoon Leader, Assistant S3, and D Company Executive Officer. He then proceeded to Camp Casey, Korea, where he served as the S3 Air Officer for 72d Armor Battalion. In 1997 he returned from overseas to Fort Carson, Colorado, where for the next ten years he served in various positions and units, to include: 3d Brigade, 4th Infantry Division as the S3 Plans; HHC, 68th Armored Battalion, Commander; E Company, 362 Armored Battalion, Commander; 2d Brigade, 91st Division, Brigade S1; and 361st Engineer Battalion as the Battalion Executive Officer. His bravery, compassion and 'lead from the front' demeanor was displayed as the Team Leader, 1-5-1 Military Transition Team, 2/3 Armored Calvary Regiment, 2d Infantry Division, attached to 1st Infantry Division at Forward Operating Base Caldwell in Iraq. Major Olmsted faithfully served our nation for over 15 years. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, three Meritorious Service Medals, four Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals, the Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star Device, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Korea Defense Service Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with "M" Device, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, the Combat Action Badge, and the Parachutist Badge. Funeral services will be at 2:30 PM on Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at Soldiers Memorial Chapel at Ft. Carson Army Base, Ft Carson, Colorado. The Olmsted family requests that memorials contributions be made to Captain Thomas Casey Children's Fund, PO Box 1306, Chester, CA 96020 or The Home Front Cares, PO Box 38516, Colorado Springs, CO 80937-8516.
Published in The Gazette on January 13, 2008
Major Olmsted was assigned to a battalion military transition team working with 5th Iraqi Army Division. He was killed in action by sniper fire while serving in the Iraq War. Also killed in the attack was Captain Thomas J. Casey. They were the first casualties suffered by the US Army in Iraq in 2008. Major Olmsted's funeral took place on January 15, 2008, at Fort Carson, Colorado..
His eleven-man team (Nightmare) likely suffered the most casualties of any transition team. Albert A. Haroutounian, an interpreter that worked with the team, was killed by a roadside bomb on March 10, 2008 in Diyala. Captain Ulises Burgos and Specialist Matthew Morris (who was loaned to the short-handed team by the 2-3 Armored Cavalry Regiment) were killed by a roadside bomb on 6 April 2008. Surviving members of team Nightmare are, MSG Joe McDuffie, MSG Fredrico Flores, MSG Elish R. “Jay” Jackson, SFC William Beaver, SSG Brandon Shaw, CPT Todd Bradford, CPT John Kurt Thompson, CPT Patrick Confer. Most of the senior enlisted soldiers listed above have retired or will very soon. MSG Jackson has since returned to Iraq with the 101st Airborne, MSG Flores is actually 1sgt Flores at a training post. CPT Thompson is in a unit near Washington D.C. Details on the rest of the team members are hard to come by. SFC Beaver was awarded the Silver Star for his actions on 3 January 2008. After being wounded in the face he continued to support his comrades with suppressive .50 caliber machine gun fire and coordinating with higher headquarters for medevac and QRF support. CPT Thomas Casey was recommended for the Silver Star by his teammates and the award is pending approval.
His team operated from Kirkush Military Training Base (KMTB) near FOB Caldwell. His team operated throughout the Diyala province in support of the Iraqi Army 5th Division. Units they supported were far flung. His team had to roam from KMTB west to Baqubah and FOB Warhorse east to Mandali and along the Iranian border to the far north of Diyala. They clocked thousands of kilometers along some of the most dangerous routes in Iraq.
He was known for writing the blog From the Front Lines for the Rocky Mountain News, and guest-posting at Obsidian Wings blog as G'Kar. He was killed in As Sadiyah, Iraq at the age of 37.. His last blog entry was published posthumously, and was entered in the congressional record.
Posted by Gary Farber, semi-intentionally/accidentally using Eric Martin's account.