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January 04, 2008


He sipped from the deep well of life that very few will ever have the courage to taste.

I am trying to read every comment, but they are coming in faster than I can read. I wish Andy had known how many lives he touched. Thank you all for you good wishes.
We are incredibly proud of our son and can't believe he has left us.
Andy's Mom

I have never read this fellow's writings before, but given my stance on the war, and its warriors, I figured I would give it a read. I just don't get it. Why write a blog for when you die, if you don't plan on revealing anything? He refused to tell us what he was really about and that is the saddest thing of all. I guess those who are sad, knew him somehow, but reading this is not sad to me, except that he seemed to cop out by not telling us what he was about. What am I missing here?

But even with the distance inherent in the blogosphere, I still feel I have lost someone who I've "known"; even if only as a (intelligent, articulate and honorable) voice on the Internet.

That's my experience of G'Kar as well. Two things I will do in his memory: Give Babylon 5 another chance, and donate to http://www.fisherhouse.org/contribute/contribute.shtml>Fisher House. "Because members of the military and their families are stationed worldwide and must often travel great distances for specialized medical care, Fisher House™ Foundation donates "comfort homes," built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers."

I think this is a charity that G'Kar (aka Andrew) would have supported.

A sad loss. My sympathies to his family and friends.

"Yeah, that's exactly it. And jesus fuck it hurts."

Thanks, Jes. I appreciate that.

"Someone said that JMS should be 'pinged' - I sent out an email to what I believe is his email address, so..."

Thanks for that. Andrew really loved JMS's stuff, and really really loved B5. We talked about it quite a bit.

I've had some arguments with JMS about this and that, mostly having to do with stuff about science fiction fandom that he didn't quite understand although he thought he did, in years past in the last century; setting aside any criticism I've ever had of his work, I've also always very much enjoyed it, flaws and all, and I'm grateful for his characters, including Londo Mollari, and G'Kar, whom so many of us, including Andrew, found so rich and worthwhile.

Hey, if JMS ever finds a place to mention a Major Olmsted in a future B5 work, I can't imagine Andrew being more flattered and pleased.

Meanwhile, G'Kar and Dr. Franklin explore the mysteries of Beyond The Rim of the galaxy.

No words.

Ah... damn.

Tat Tvam Asi.

It's clear he lived an intense life, which too few of us do. Yes, this is the wrong universe for fair -- but how crushingly unfair it is that he couldn't enjoy life much, much longer.

I hope for your sake, Andy, there is an afterlife.


Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

I don't think it's overly "political" to quote the words Fred Hillerman added to Woody Guthrie's The Ballad of the Reuben James: "The worst of men must fight and the best of men must die".

My very unserious account of meeting various bloggers, including dinner with Andy and Amanda, in 2004.

Very sad, no words.
My condolences to Andy's family

I am recently divorced, my industry went to hell and am losing my house and must file BK. For the last couple of months I have felt so sorry for myself, not anymore. I did not know this man, but I wish I would have. I am done feeling sorry for myself, I am alive and have people that love me and I cant believe I havent realized that that is enough.

Andy, please accept my apologies for my selfishness in life and I will do my best to live up to your standards as best I can.


Soar with the angels, Major! My prayers for all who love him.

I am updating, above, to say: anyone who takes this of all occasions to go on a political rant -- left or right, up or down any kind at all -- will have their comment deleted. The ones above, I will simply disemvowel.

I'm sorry. I normally try to be easy-going. I can't manage that now.

I didn't know Major Olmstead or his family, but I have read a few of his posts. His voice will be missed. My condolences to his family and to those who knew him better.

How terrible. MAJ Olmsted was a wonderful guy. My condolences to his family.

don't get it? -

I haven't read everything that he wrote or followed every disagreement he had with his friend, Gary Farber, but, as with this final post, he does not act as if there is a point. Life is. Andy lived it the way he best knew how to do. Many who knew him or just read his work learned from him. We can take from him what he left us. Each of us will take different things.

Why do you think there should be a revelation? Why would someone who knew wait until he was dead?

"What am I missing here?"

That people are mourning someone you didn't know, and who didn't write a piece intended to get you to know him upon his death.

That pretty much applies to everyone in the world who died in the past week. You may or may not "get" that people are mourning many of them, despite your lack of personal contact and knowledge of them. HTH. I don't suggest wandering around graveyards or funeral homes, asking what all the fuss is about, but, hey, maybe that's your thing.

And, who knows, maybe if you keep asking, you'll find out.

Or get a punch in the nose. Hard to know.

Good night sweet prince. Godspeed.

My sincere condolences to all his family and friends.

A great hero.

May he, his family and friends find peace.

Jes: "Yeah, that's exactly it. And jesus fuck it hurts."

I’m entirely happy to agree with you.

Newcomers: Please respect Andrew’s wishes (at least read his wishes before you spout off) and realize that his family is reading this. Otherwise, get lost…

I now have to explain to my wife why I have had tears running down my cheeks all afternoon.

Godspeed Andrew. I will raise a glass in your honor.

It's amazing how close we can feel to people we've never met in person, people we've come to know through bits and bytes on a computer screen. Their loss is no less painful.

Andy's good-bye post is incredible. I'm in awe at his thoughtfulness in writing something for us bloggers.

My deepest condolences to Major Olmsted's family and friends, his army buddies and his blogging community.

Don't worry about the afterlife, Major. All Bab5 fans go to heaven.

Thank you for your service. Thank you for choosing to serve.

"Delenn: The third principle of sentient life is the capacity for self-sacrifice, the conscious ability to override evolution and self-preservation for a cause, a friend, a loved one."

It is only thus after the end that I will know your words, for there are so many out there that I hadn't noticed them before... That is not such a bad thing perhaps, your words will endure. Memories of lives you have touched will endure. Hopefully you have gone to the afterlife of your choice and could care less what I think. I wish for strength for those who are left behind, though.

Have a beer with the dancing girls of heaven for me. Anyone willing to use B5 references in his own last letter, is OK by me...

My condolences to his family as well--and thanks to his parents for helping make him such a good man. I'll miss his writing and I can't tell you how much I wish I had known him better.

my most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

it's at such times as this that i hope there is a valhalla where warriors might drink deeply together, laughing about the time they fought on the battlefield as enemies. may it be so. [i mean warriors in every sense, not just the weapons-carrying kind.]

On Being Asked for a War Poem
William Butler Yeats (1928)

I think it better that in times like these
A poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;
He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter’s night.

Hilzoy, Sebastian, et al: I know you folks seldom delete posts, but would you please police this thread and nuke a few? I would like Andrew's memorial to comply with his wishes, just as I would for anyone else's memorial, and I suspect I'm not alone in that. I've no doubt that Andrew's life, choices, and death will feature in future arguments about Iraq, but they shouldn't here.


I've never interacted with him in any way other than reading his work, but he was a good writer, and he seemed like a person of unusual quality as well.

If there's anything we can do to support his family, not just now but in three months or three years or whatever, please let us know.


"It's amazing how close we can feel to people we've never met in person, people we've come to know through bits and bytes on a computer screen. Their loss is no less painful."

In person we still largely know someone via their words.

In writing, we know someone via their words.

It's far less of a distinction than most people relatively new to the experience (not having spent decades making and meeting friends and lovers via writing) tend to think.

Here from Digby. I had never heard of Mr. Olmsted before. I consider that fact my loss after reading this eloquent statement.

I'm crying at my desk too.

May he and his find light and comfort.

As Gahrie just stated, this is my first visit.

But leaving the politics out of it, I must say that it hurts to read this and it should. Our freedom is paid by men (and women) just like Major Olmsted. He feels no pain now, and I truly believe he is in Paradise now, for he laid his life down for his fellow man - and there is no greater love than that!

Profound thoughts to live by for those of us fortunate enough to do so.

Fighting back tears in an airport terminal... Don't know why, but this song popped into my head earlier today. Pardon the religious nature, I just think it's a beautiful song.


Death is an angel sent down from above
sent for the buds and the flowers we love
Truly 'tis so for in heaven's own way
each soul is a flower in the Master's bouquet

Gathering flowers for the Master's bouquet
beautiful flowers that will never decay
Gathered by angels and carried away
forever to bloom in the Master's bouquet

Loved ones are passing each day and each hour
passing away as the life of a flower
But every bud and each blossom some day
Will bloom as the flowers in the Master's bouquet

Gathering flowers for the Master's bouquet
beautiful flowers that will never decay
Gathered by angels and carried away
forever to bloom in the Master's bouquet

Let us be faithful till life's work is done blooming with love
till the reaper shall come
Then we'll be gathered together for age
Transplanted to bloom in the Master's bouquet

Gathering flowers for the Master's bouquet
beautiful flowers that will never decay
Gathered by angels and carried away
forever to bloom in the Master's bouquet

Don't know anything about Maj. Andy at all. I skimmed most of the comments and still haven't determined his political POV--and don't care to just yet.

But I came away with one observation to share re:
Farber's and Andy's mutual respect despite the barbs they exchanged. And that's this... perhaps all of our modern political vitriol which (as Andy mentions tends to "bludgeon" and "silence" the opponents) so cheapens both sides, would be tempered if each side at least considered the thought of eulogizing the other.

Personally I hope it does play just a little bit... but only as a morality lesson.

fwiw, I agree with Bruce. This being a sort of online wake, we can't literally throw people who are really misbehaving out the door. But it would be nice to.

Along that wake theme: weeping always gives me a nasty headache. In a small way, I imagine Andrew would have been amused to know he's already given me a hangover and I haven't even had a chance to drink something in his honor.

Gdim: Yes, exactly. Andrew and Gary demonstrated what civility and mutual respect are all about, neither in the slightest compromising his sense of the truth, but proceeding with the combination of confidence and humility that leads to actually improved understanding.

Oh God...just a lurker here, but I very much enjoyed Andrew's posts the last few years, initially attracted by the B5 references. Read a bit of All Alone in the Night just to get more of his POV. I send him a B5 good-bye when he went overseas.

G'kar: "You see ... I ... I believe that when we leave a place part of it goes with us and part of us remains. Go any where in this station when it is quiet and just listen. After a while you will hear the echoes of all our conversations, every thought and word we've exchanged. Long after we are gone, our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains. But I will admit that the part of me is going, very much miss the part of you that is staying."

Sheridan: "You take care of yourself out there old friend. Maybe we will meet up again down the road a ways."

G'kar: "Maybe so."

I hope to God there is an afterlife. I'd love to meet up with him. My sympathies to his family and friends.

Noah Schactman writes about Andrew here, quoting and linking to this post.

"We're sorry, your comment has not been published because TypePad's antispam filter has flagged it as potential comment spam. It has been held for review by the blog's author."


More all over the place. Here,here,

It's far less of a distinction than most people relatively new to the experience (not having spent decades making and meeting friends and lovers via writing) tend to think.

As one of those "relatively new the experience," I find that somehow comforting. Also to see how many others note their surprise (if that's the word) at their feelings comforts me. It's good to know we can have so much in common and be so connected. I'm also glad to know there are so many lurkers, since I consider myself to be half a lurker, commenting far less than reading. I think part of my half-lurking has much to do with a sentiment similar to Andrew's:

When I was young, I was smart, but the older I got, the more I realized just how dumb I was in comparison to truly smart people.

If I get any dumber...

Also usually a lurker here, but very saddened by the news. R.I.P. Andrew Olmstead.

here, here, and so on.

I've disemvowelled the one comment that truly called for it. That relatively temperate response is out of respect for Andy.

Requiescat in pace.

I can't really think of anything sensible to say, other than a string of cursing, which might be amusing but isn't appropriate. I'm going to be missing your words for a long time.

Semper Fi.

My heartfelt condolences to everyone affected. There are no words.

There are no words, only tears. And not just for Andrew....for them all.

I feel a little like a stranger wandering into the wrong wake. I've only rarely been on OW, didn't know Andy at all. Still his post, and especially the comments that came after, touched me deeply.
I am another who knows no one in the military, so that the war to me was an abstract matter of endless blog debates. But it doesn't take much to make it real, to turn a statistic into a real human being. A soldier with a dry wit who, like me, was a sci-fi geek. The minute it's a person, you feel the loss.

My condolences to all those who really did know him.

"How did he put it... something like... [impression of Data] As I experience certain sensory input patterns my mental pathways become accustomed to them. The inputs eventually are anticipated and even 'missed' when absent." -- Troi, to Riker, re: Data's definition of friendship (Time's Arrow, Part 1)

Oh goddam it to hell.

I now have to explain to my wife why I have had tears running down my cheeks all afternoon.

Try explaining it to coworkers. I have to keep dashing to the washroom to dab and check for blotchiness.

I'm sorry beyond words, and grateful beyond anything rational for this last post. Thanks, Hilz.

I agree with Gary (Posted 04:54 PM). I worked with Andy for two years, and one of the many things I really liked about him was his dry and sarcastic humor.

He would undoubtedly laugh at being "first of the year".

Thanks Gary for making me laugh. It's the first laugh I've had in about 24 hours.

Thank you Andy for your willingness and enthusiasm to serve. May God comfort your family and friends. I can't even imagine how they feel right now. I'm including a link to the CNN page that has the soldiers that have fallen before you, and will likely add many more after. http://tinyurl.com/grm4

Although I read Obsidian Wings from time to time, I had no real idea of who Andy was and what he was doing in life. My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

An inspiration. Thank you.
Condolences to your family.

Silence will be that much emptier without your voice.

I am so sorry for your loss. Every time this happens, the world suffers a loss. Andy was right, there is a piece that is unique to each.

I had to leave work, I just couldn't do it today. Strange that with 3,000 or so killed I should know three. But the other two were acquaintances. Andrew was a friend. I have lots to write, but not just yet.


What utterly crappy news. Andrew's work here, which is all I knew him by, set a standard for honesty, thoughtfulness, and candor. He was a gentleman. He'll be missed.

Andrew Olmsted,

Thank you from me and my family. I will raise a toast in your honor, tonight.

Hail and farewell. You will be missed.

-- a former O-4

Yet many more links here, which is currently the top story on Memeorandum.

What a horrible tragedy. To the family and friends of Andy, please accept my deepest sympathies. As somoene who lost a dear friend in Afghanistan this August, take pride in his courage and goodness. And I thank him from the bottom of my heart for his service.

I have only read G'Kar posts recently, but as a B5 fan, his tag caught my eye. And though I didn't really know him, my eyes are now wet at the loss. My deepest condolences to his family and friends, on-line and off. I'll be looking for what I can contribute in the memory of a man who did exemplify the nobility of his chosen nom-du-blogger.

Here is an occasion I can agree with, and link to, Jeff Goldstein.


I managed to stop crying midway through Andrew's post, after complying with his musical request, but started all over again once I got to the comments. How fortunate we were to have someone like him in our military (and our blogosphere), and how unfortunate it is that it ended this way.

Now that I've taken a break to recover, I thought I'd invite anyone who wants to watch Team America tonight. In addition to video stores, it's one of the movies that you can watch online through Netflix if you have an account or (I believe) if you sign up for their free two-week trial (though you need a PC with IE).

How can we help the Olmsted family at this time? Please let us know.

I only knew him from his posts and the discussions in which he participated, and I have the greatest respect for him. I don't know what to say.

I am so sorry. My deepest condolences to all his family and friends.

Charles here.

I so rarely post here, but this breaks my heart.

A tremendous loss. I've loved reading G'Kar's posts ever since I started reading ObWi. His humility, thoughtfulness, humanity and integrity came through in everything he wrote here. I wish there were better words than "condolences" and "sympathies" to offer his family and friends. You were lucky to know him.

Andy Olmstead was a hero in every sense of the word.

"He was the ideal soldier of a free nation- he hated war and he hated tyranny."

May his family entire be blessed with the inner peace that is granted only from Above.

Thank you for giving your life so that we may live in freedom. Thanks to your family for supporting your sacrifice. God bless...

I would not have had the guts to write what you did, Andrew. But I am so glad you had a friend who would put it up for us to read. I'll have a drink tonite in a not so "maudlin" way and I'll just lift it up to ya. Godsapeed to your Family.
and to Gary Farber...I know your pain, but I know I cannot fix it. Just hang in there.

We, as soldiers, know the risks that we undertake when we put on the uniform; we know the possibilities that come with what we do, we know the what if's. God bless those who undertake the life knowing it anyway.

There was one quote the Major didn't include, from G'Kar, and I find it most fitting to include it in his absence in tribute of his journey beyond the rim; "And so it begins..."

Godspeed, Major.

RIP, brother.

-- Fred

I've always loved the community supported by this blog. My condolences to his family, and to all of you here.

My heart has joined The Thousand
For my friend stopped running today.

Rest well.

Oh man ... wow. I'm almost overwhelmed with feelings. I cried twice, once when he made me glad to be alive and then again during his closing. Amanda if you read this I'm so sorry you have to go through this. Love is the greatest feeling in the world and sadly is has to come along with the absolute worst feeling. Its worth it though, and I'm sure you agree.

“The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”
~ Ernest Hemingway

“There are places in the heart that do not yet exist; suffering has to enter in for them to come to be.”
~Leon Bloy

"We are remembered forever by the tracks we leave."
~Native American Proverb

"and to Gary Farber...I know your pain, but I know I cannot fix it. Just hang in there."

It's Andy's family I know we all wish we could somehow do something to somehow make it somehow faintly better.

Of course, we can't. That's why it's horrible, and war [political murflemurfle].

Thank you, Hilzoy. (I missed seeing the further update earlier.)

"Not to disagree with anything written here, but a fairly strong argument could be made that Bush got us into the war illegally:"--John upthread.

This is not the place for that discussion. Andy expressly said he did not want his death used as a discussion for that kind of thing, either for the war or against it or in between. I, and a lot of others, agree with what you are saying, but this really, really, really, is not the place at all. Please stop and respect a dead man's wishes. There are plenty of other places to discuss the war's legality, its wisdom, etc. This is not that place however.

RIP. Zichron L'Bracha.

I didn't know Andy except through the occasional blog that caught my eye, but I mourn his death deeply. As we sit at work or at home, comfortable in our lives, there are thousands of men and women willing to put their lives on the line in a pretty desperate place far, far away from here with no complaints and only the hope of getting through in one piece. Whether it's duty, honor, country, or for one's friends, or for any other reason, they live their values every day, and with the ultimate price at hand at any given moment.I'll miss his sense of humor, his loopy quotes at times (which were always germane), his good heart and good intentions, and his wonderful ability to convey his thoughts and opinions. A light has gone out.

I pray that his family finds consolation and peace, and that his death was not in vain. I believe there is something beyond this life, and hope that wherever he finds himself, he finds peace and some form of joy.

I've never read this blog before -- that may well have been my loss, judging from the comments here, which seem to be the best of blogging. I came here via a link from the Volokh Conspiracy. Why I clicked on the link, I can't say -- I often don't follow links I see in blogs. This is quite possibly the most haunting blog post I've ever read, and it's made all the more poignant by the quotes from a series that I enjoyed, if not as much as STAR TREK, then still in a special way. May your service to our country not be forgotten.

Andy's final post is incredibly moving, and for me serves as a reminder of the incalculable loss we suffer whenever any of our soldiers is killed.

These are our nation's brilliant young minds putting themselves on the line every day, and it had damn well better be for a good reason.

No more tragedies like Andy! Enough!

"And so it begins ..."


Despite the Major's request to not be maudlin, I can't stop crying.

Godspeed, Andy.

To Amanda and Andy's parents, siblings, family and friends, you are are in my thoughts and prayers and will continue to be.

Andy was special.

Our military family sends our condolences.

Fair winds and following seas, Major. This old sailor honors your memory and your service.

John, Barney and "don't get it?": Stop being tools.

My condolences to family, friends and followers. Major Olmsted's last post was beautiful and eloquent, and it reflects honorably on his life and service.

I have never seen something "disemvoweled" before. Thanks Hilzoy. If you must delete my comment responding to him, please do, and I apologize for responding.

Again, RIP. Zichron L'Bracha.

I just found this link through reddit, but this is one of the most touching and meaningful things I've read in a long time. I don't know him and I've never read his writing before, and I still teared up.

I know there are no words to help his family and friends, but this post has left me with the utmost respect for this man. And I am grateful for his service to our country.

The thing to take away from this tragedy is not to wait to tell someone you love them or think they are very special. To all of you who took the time to comment on this, his last blog, thank you and god bless you all.

God, this has weighed heavily on my mind all day, and I *only* knew Andrew via his postings. Never had the pleasure of interacting with him personally except via comments.

Andrew is the only person I know who has been deployed in thiswho will not be coming home (so far, anyway), and it's really, really bothering me.

I can't think of anything else to say that won't get political or otherwise inappropriate.

So, so horrible. I admired Andrew a great deal, though I didn't always agree with him. Such a decent, intelligent man, such a great writer. It's so hard to believe he's gone.

Awww crap...

My sympathies to his family

O, God, full of compassion, who dwells on high, grant perfect rest beneath the shelter of Thy divine presence among the holy and pure who shine as the brightness of the firmament to the soul of he who has gone to his eternal home.

Mayest Thou, O God of Mercy, shelter him forever under the wings of Thy presence, May his soul be bound up in the bond of life eternal, and grant that the memories of his life inspire me always to noble and consecrated living.

Why do we cry for strangers? It's certainly not Patriotism or any us-vs.-them instinct. I don't even like this guy...some artistic temperament anti-war soldier, yadda yadda. Yet I'm out of tissues too.

We cry for the same reason we laugh. It's how we connect to God (and this statement comes from a hard-science trained non-religious person). It's because life is so weird. Look at your arm as you point your palm up and flex your fingers in order, like a palm leaf in the wind: there's these incredibly wild and very strong tendons, that pass under an inner wrist-band of cartilage, so our arm bulges like there's little snakes inside, but out watch-band doesn't snap off.

Our hero quotes Babylon 5 (the movie, which I hope was better than the over-dramatic, over-lighted TV series), which involves things like "wet robots." Yet that's you and that's me. Liquid pours out of our stereo video cameras that wiggle faster than we notice, in order to have more megapixels than we deserve to have in such a small unit as the eye.

God Bless the USA who is trying to replace wet robots with highly precise dry ones, on the battlefield. That we notice the death of one soldier (who published his own newspaper online) means we are getting there. Is that not an example of (the third mystery of life) of hard Love?

As one of the scientists in the world doing just that, I must admit though that my motivation has nothing to do with saving the next Kilroy. It's Platonic love of utterly non-political Order.

Good bye, soldier, and since along with most readers, I just "met" you, well, this is your first and last hello as well. The fourth mystery of life is time, which all your quotes orbit 'round. And after-life or not, we don't have a clue even which direction it even really runs, anymore than we know what matter is or why forks stay on tables, or why the Future hasn't really yet arrived. So don't worry, buddy, if there is no afterlife, we'll get around to that soon enough, and see you there.

[Comment deleted by hilzoy. Commenter banned.]

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