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January 05, 2011


Thanks for this Gary. I’m sure it was difficult to write, as it has been difficult to read…

After 3 years it’s no easier to read those old posts. My thoughts are with his family and friends often, but certainly today I’ll think of little else.

If anyone think I wrote this without weeping before, nonstop through every moment of writing it, fighting with Typepad, and still now: you're wrong.

I also have this on my mind.

More context here.

All of us have likely suffered losses of loved ones, and if you haven't, you will.

All of us have likely had major injuries or illness or financial worries or family problems, and endless other problems and stresses.

Many of us are dealing with critical illnesses, or those of loved ones, and some of us are caring for dying people, or those in grave danger of it.

Certainly some of my best friends are, at this very moment, and many other friends, as well.

Many people are homeless. Many people are dying. All of us will die.

May each and every one of you find peace and happiness, and an easier life.

And I'm thankful that I'm:

a) One of the luckiest people in the world;

b) More privileged and well-off and richer than over one billion of my brothers and sisters I'm riding with on Planet Earth.

I'm thankful for the people who help other people.

I'm most thankful for the people who don't decide they know who is deserving, and who is not.

May whatever you believe in bless you all.

Thoughts on Andrew Olmsted, and what he means to you, should be posted below, and all my personal remarks ignored.

This comment is now obsolete, and this is a notation that I've removed it, having fixed the problem it related.

Fixed the sidebar and timing problem.

Thank you for the post, Gary. I dodn't know Andy well enough to call him a friend but I liked him and respected him. It was a hell of a shock when he died. All of a sudden the tragedy of war was real. I had trouble going through my day with out spantaneous outbursts of tears. Its hard to explain crying over someone never actually met, but thruough blogs one can become acquainted with another person's mind even if there is no visual image to go with it. And Andy had a very special perspective on things, a builder of bridges, a person with strong principles who still saw multiple points of view, breave enough to alwasy be looking for opportuinties to learn and expand his thinking. He is what I think every soldier should aspire to be.

"Its hard to explain crying over someone never actually met...."

Unless you've never cried over a book, article, movie, piece of art, beautiful scenery, sad thought about someone else, never empathized with another human, or never cared about another life of any sort, or never cared about anything besides yourself, and those people you've been in physical proximity to, it's not hard to explain at all.

Our neurology is wired to produce emotional reactions to the world around us. We can't help it.

We respond to everything we input through our senses.

From that, we get ideas and thoughts and emotions.

Language communicates this.

That's how it works.

It's why writing is important.

It's why writing can change lives, and does.

At times.

That's the power of language, ideas, and empathy.

And caring about other people.

I'm so glad to see you comment, wonkie. You're another regular-for-long whose presence I miss enormously. I hope you'll be back for more, but only if it makes you happy, and I hope it will make you happy to visit and comment more on other posts on more happy topics.

I miss hearing from you, and reading your comments, views, and hearing about your life.

Just as I miss so many other missing regulars who have gone away over the past three years.

Yes, I understand the many reasons why, including the lack of Hilzoy, life changes, the changes on the blog, the strains of reading the same arguments, seeing some of the same annoying people, and all the things I don't know about your life, and so on; I understand, but I still have my own selfish desires to read the comments of those I care about, which includes you.

Its hard to explain crying over someone never actually met, but thruough blogs one can become acquainted with another person's mind even if there is no visual image to go with it.
And Andy had a very special perspective on things, a builder of bridges, a person with strong principles who still saw multiple points of view, breave enough to alwasy be looking for opportuinties to learn and expand his thinking. He is what I think every soldier should aspire to be.

And I have little doubt that he'd be at least an LTC, lieutenant colonel, by now, and at least a brigadier general within a few years.

(Beyond that, it gets tricky; but that far, at least, I have l little doubt, and that doubt is only whether Andy would change his mind, and that doubt is about .01%.)

Thank you. What a sweet thing to say! Unfortunatrely I have only two modes lately: sad or mad so i don't have much to say that I can justify inflicting on others.

Theere are commenters I miss too and worry about. Bedtime for Bonzo, for example. I'm glad to get even a little wave from Steve.

I wish sometimes that I wasn't an atheist.

No one should mistake a lack of response here with a lack of caring or interest. It's hard to find anything new to say except that I miss both Andrew and G'Kar and have wished I could ask him about all sorts of stuff over the past few years.

The Coke is all his, but We'll raise a glass of something else to him tonight.

Three years ago, Olmsted's death was like a punch to the stomach, and I only knew him as that breath of electrons on my screen. For me, he will always be one of the faces of the Iraq war, not least for his (sacrificial) death, trying to speak a word that would stop violence.

Gary, thank you for posting all this.

Unfortunatrely I have only two modes lately: sad or mad [....]
This sort of sentiment is one reason why so many regulars keep saying they're not commenting any more.

I completely respect your desires, wishes, and choices, but I do wish the thoughtful people would quit being so damn thoughtful, and speak up with their sad and mad, instead.

That's what makes for a community, and sharing ideas, feelings, and lives: sharing, not holding back for fear it's inappropriate.

But I understand you have elsewhere you can do that.

All I can do is encourage the thoughtful people to quit being so thoughtful, and silent here.

I so encourage. I encourage anyone who is holding back because of such considerations to return to commenting on ObWi.

Rebuild, renew, revitalize.

Consider the possibilities if we do this more of this, again, here on ObWi, rather than elsewhere.

Spread the word.

This means you, people who are more busy posting to Hating On Charles Bird, aka Taking It Outside.

It's kinda crazy, IMHO, when the metablog on ObWi gets more comments, and more personal comments, and more community, than the blog it's supposedly commenting on.

I'm not even sure that all the current ObWi posters realize there's a whole 'nother blog devoted to talking about Obsidian Wings, let alone what people on it have been saying for years.

Where there hasn't been silence about problems on ObWi.

But maybe all the front pagers here do know, and maybe I'm the only one who would like the ObWi community to come back to ObWi, as much as possible, rather than separate itself off onto a metablog, or off to other, more active blogs, elsewhere, as has so largely happened over the past three years.

I can't know; but I'm asking and inviting people to come be here now.

And in future.

Come back.

As you wish.

And with all due respect to Taking It Outside, LJ, and the other bloggers there, who obviously should do as they wish with their own blog, as should commenters who now prefer and have gotten in the habit of talking there, rather than here.

Could we take some back inside, please?


No one should mistake a lack of response here with a lack of caring or interest.
And I don't, or I'd feel awful.

But I do encourage anyone who cares to at least put in a sentence, just to let the rest of us know.

I, personally, would find it a comfort, and I can't imagine that any of the Olmsted family, who WILL BE PRINTING THIS OUT WHEN IT'S DONE, AND PUTTING IT THEIR "HONOR CORNER" FOR ANDY, or Hilzoy (if she can bring herself to read this, which she probably, understandably, can't), or any of Andrew's many friends, will be unhappy to see people write even one word to show that, yes, you remember, and care.

Whatever word you like.

It means something. To many people.

I encourage such a word from anyone reading this, who would like to help others.

Just a word.

For Andrew.


Andy's death came very close on the heels of my mother's death so when I think about one, it is entwined with the other, which I suspect is similar to your situation. Which is the thing that I have taken away most from his passing- the interconnectedness of all this.


Thank you for this post. I miss him too.

I remember your writing about your mother, LJ, although I'm sure I only saw some of what you wrote even in places I'd notice.

I'm so sorry for your loss.

These sort of losses are never made up for; time helps, but only slowly.

My purely subjective experience is that it's taken me at least three years to really start to find any peace with the death of someone truly close, and at five years for one, I'm still in process, but each year is better and easier than the last.

I made my peace with my father's death in 1987 a good number of years ago now. And that had... great complications.

Purely subjective; we're all unique.

Digression: I only just noticed your age within the past couple of weeks (something you said on TIO, where I did do just a little bit of backreading).

On the internet, where no one knows if you're a dog, I'd always thought of you as more early forties.

Don't ask me why, or what that means, because I have no answer at present. But I offer it as a compliment, not an insult, if I offer it as anything more than a simple: huh. Oh.


I never knew Andrew well enough to consider myself his friend. I can't remember whether he and I ever discussed anything, back then. But I always respected him, and am sorry that he is gone.

Thank you, Gary, both for reminding me of the book, and for making me aware that it's now available. I'll be picking up a copy this weekend after I get paid.

Godspeed, Andrew. If there is an afterlife, I pray it has been a good one for you.

Thanks, Gary. A fine, heartfelt tribute to a fine, fine man. I also think about Andy quite frequently; his loss an ache that doesn't go away.

I'm going to translate what Hilzoy told me into "Hilzoy says hi."

It was very good to hear from her.

January 4th was my father's birthday. He'd be 88, not that he made it nearly that far. I really wish he had; his grandchildren would know him well, instead of just having vague memories of a smiling man who was always so glad to see them.

It was a tragedy about Andy. He was taken from us far too soon. There's a lot of that going around.

I wasn't hip to the blogosphere when Andy was writing, but I somehow stumbled across his farewell message a few months ago and wept the whole time reading it. And now I just wept again. The world needs more people like him.

Mike: First, of all great to see you around, too. Would love love love to see more of you here at ObWi, more regularly, if you can be enticed. Always love and value your comments. (As I do so many, but I can only best tell one person at a time.)

There's a lot of that going around.
And only more as one gets older. Until either you're dead, or the rest of us are.

It's something one has to get used to.

I haven't yet, and the closer someone is, the harder it will always be, and the closer, the longer the wound and loss will never go away; all that happens is that, eventually, over years, one can find more peace with it.

Meanwhile: we appreciate and do what we can for those still with us.

It's all temporary.

I'm so sorry about your father. All losses of loved one's are tragic, horrible, and the people are never replaced.

We just try to keep doing.

It's what our loved ones would have wanted.

As one great man wrote:

[...] 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.

Substitute you own choice of music, drink, that which makes you laugh, art that you find beautiful and moving, beautiful scenery, smelling the flowers, loving someone and being loved, being a good friend, doing good for others, counting your accomplishments every day, and carpe diem.

We only have today.

Tomorrow? Who knows?

I'm not claiming divinity. I've never claimed purity of soul. I've never claimed to have the answers to life. I only put out songs and answer questions as honestly as I can... But I still believe in peace, love and understanding.
- John Lennon

We've got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can't just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it's going to get on by itself. You've got to keep watering it. You've got to really look after it and nurture it.
- John Lennon
A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.
- John Lennon

Major Olmsted's death pre-dated my discovery of OBW. I read his farewell something like 2 years after his death and was moved by it. And by the tributes I've seen posted by Gary & others. I'm not a crier, generally, but I've teared up a couple of times just reading about this guy I had never known in any way.

So I don't have much to say, other than "damn, what a loss."

Rob in CT: that's a beautiful comment.

Thank you so much, for Andy, and his family, and everyone else who cares, who are so many.

I can't claim to have been Andrew's friend, or even anything more than a blog acquaintance: a passing voice on the Internet. I have no anecdotes I can share. I'm reluctant to add anything at all, because I tend not to comment if I don't have something thought-out and substantial to say, just to "me too".

What I will say is this: Andrew helped personalize the Iraq War for me. His was the first combat death of anyone I've known and with whom I've interacted, and it shook me. Had he continued blogging here, I have no doubt that he would've been one of this site's leading voices.

His absence leaves a hole--here, in his family, and in the Army that he loved--that can never be filled, only papered over with time.

Catsy, thanks for writing my comment for me. I've been failing to comment on this thread despite wanting to. So, "me too" too.

Every time I come into this and the "Speak to the Kitty" threads, I feel like I've wandered into someone else's high school reunion. The yearbooks are there for me to look at, but it's not the same as having been there.

But the company and the drinks are good.

Thanks for the post, Gary.


But the company and the drinks are good.
Now is now. Now is good. Be here now.

And in future.

We've already been together in the past. Just not as long as some of us.

All this has happened before, and will happen again. :-)

Batocchio, hairshirthedonist, Catsy, thanks back.

A lovely, moving tribute that succeeds because the sense of loss is so palpable.

Well done, Gary.

I still remember crying at work 3 years ago, after hilzoy posted Andy's letter. He had a gift for life that cannot be duplicated.

I did a check, and there are both a fair number of links to this post, and understandably, even more to the past posts about Andy.

If I can bring myself to, I'll update this post to link to some, but please understand and forgive me if I don't.

This was hard enough.

Reading yet more comments on Andy all over again, as I've just done some of, is difficult for me.

But if you click this link, for the next day or so, you'll see a number of them.

Thanks, all.

Randy, thanks. If you could take a look at this thread, everything I said about hoping to see more of various folks applies to you, and equally that I'd very much like to offer you, as well, some guest post slots.

Please don't reply on this thread; over here, if at all interested.

Thanks again.

Gary could you email me at Lkoerbereighteightnineataoldotcom, please? I have a question and for some reason my computer won't let my ask the kitty.

I miss Andy/G'Kar. And I only ever read his postings and comments. But that was all it took.

I dug up the Pretender's Brass in Pocket, the song I associate with survival, and played it once again to remember Andy Olmsted. I read, once more, his last post. I thought about December 10th of 2005, human rights day and, ironically, the day a group of extremists threatened to kill a friend of mine. And I thought about survival, and a life spent dancing on the cliff's edge. And I thought of my colleagues George Weber and Tom Fox, peacemakers killed in Iraq. I thought about loved ones and last moments and of all the people to whom I raise a glass these days in the old naval toast to absent friends.

I'll bet Andrew would be very happy to know you're still thinking about him three years later.

I can't believe that it's been three year.

Thanks for reminding us.

Nice tribute, Gary. Can I call you Gary? I rarely comment here, or anywhere, primarily for time/time zone reasons (I'm in Norway). But I have been reading this blog since the time of Moe Lane and it is difficult to think of the people here, even those I have never interacted with, as sort of online friends.

I loved Andy's writing. I rarely interacted with him either but we did once exchange a couple of mp3's of early 80's music, of which I am also an aficionado. It struck me hard when I read that he had died, the first such "online" person I knew who had done so and the reaction surprised me. Who knew I felt this much about someone who I barely even shared personal words with?

Sorry for your loss Gary. And Andy's family and friends. You guys lost something tremendous. I know this because I feel the loss and I didn't even really know him. Now that is impact he would have been proud of.

Nice tribute, Gary. Can I call you Gary?
People have called me much worse without my barking back, so, yeah, I think so. :-)

You can even call me Shirley, or Nancy.

But I have been reading this blog since the time of Moe Lane
As if I wouldn't remember, simply from memory, your handle (which you have wit and lack of fright enough to not make either generic, or use a famous historic name somehow innumerable people seem to think they're the only ones who will ever choose it, because it's just so darn original to have heard of a Roman or Greek, etc.).

("Tacitus," say, or simply "Plato").

Having said that, I can then point out that you've commented or been responded to 322 times, give or take (Google is not actually reliable with such figures unless you spend some time to tease them).

And honestly, I feel I barely have the right to call myself a friend of Andy's. I pissed him off as much as I've pissed most people off, and gave him as hard a time, unintentionally, as I give all the bloggers I've ever commented back to, we only spent one afternoon and evening together, he, Amanda, and I (Andy bought me my crabcake sandwich at The Cheesecake Factory), and the latter half of that was at a group party.

I don't claim any great or privileged access to Andy's life, and he had innumerable real friends, all of whom knew him far better than I did, most of all, the Soldiers (a word I'd never capitalize save for his sake, not the Army's idiotic style guide) he served with, over, and under, but not to exclude simply all his in-person friends throughout his life.

I just knew him largely for years of writing back and forth, arguing about trivial points, usually focusing on something completely besides the point of what he wrote, and understandably annoying him, and being That Sort Of Friend.

The only difference between me and anyone besides Hilzoy is that I've had the privilege of writing about him here, and the privilege of Wes, Nancy, and Eric doing me the honor of letting me extremely erratically stay briefly in touch over the years.

So: thanks.

[...] Who knew I felt this much about someone who I barely even shared personal words with?
But, yes, words are mostly what we all share with one another, if we're not lovers or similarly close.

What we lack when writing simply are visual cues (unless we're vision impaired, which some of us are), body language, tone and sound of voices (unless we're hearing impaired, which some us are), and there's also smell, which usually isn't desirable if you're not lovers with the person in question. :-)

Mostly most people communicate in words, particularly if you accept sign language as words; the visual and aural aspects help a great deal in communicating, but if we had only facial expressions and body language, and no words, syntax, and grammar, we wouldn't, for the most part, get very far communicating with each other.

We'd simply be our cousin hominidaes.

Words matter.

Again: thanks, Platosearwax, for your contributions here, which have been far more than that of mere lurker, and please feel free -- no pressure -- to comment more frequently, as casually as you like.

All we ask is that people occasionally try to make a little sense, and we clearly require that of no one, certainly including me. :-)

(And all you lurkers out there: don't think I don't know you're reading!; bwahahahaha. And bwa.)

Thanks for this post, Gary.

ThirdGorch! Another long-time-not-seen-by-me much missed commenter!

If you're remotely inclined, which you probably aren't, please come over here, and tell us how you've been doing, and how's life, and all that good stuff!

Good to see your handle again! Would love to see you around ObWi again! Your contributions and voice are missed!

And: thanks.

Well, Gary, thanks a lot for making me cry all over again. I remember back to that day when I sat down to see what was going on at OBWI, and the gut-punch of Hilzoy's post about Andy. All I can say is I have been thinking about him and hope that his family is healing from their (and our) loss.

Thank you for this, Gary.

I read Andy's posts (as GKar) with interest and enjoyment, as he exploded stereotypes that many of my political bent harbor about the military. I was profoundly shocked and saddened when he was killed.

By some karmic irony, I am currently in Iraq, in considerably less danger than him, doing work that I hope will be useful to the troops remaining, and ultimately to the Iraqis. I've had some impressions confirmed, and some others shot down; I have gained an immense respect for those serving, and unfortunately a fear that in coming years as they rotate in and out of AF/PAK, there will be more Andys to mourn.

Thank you for remembering Andy. He touched my heart, too. It's men like Andy who rekindle my hope for humanity. I didn't always agree with him, but I knew he was speaking the truth as he knew it, different from but as valid as my civilian and school teacher experiences.

Knowing as I do the grim conditions the people of the plains face (Lakota, Dakota, Nakota and Cheyene) Andrew Olmsted's request, made shortly before his death, for support for Pretty Bird Woman House marked him as an uncommonly decent and perceptive person. Anyone who wants to support a worthy cause could do worse than look up the requests Andrew made on Obsidian Wings.

Someone is selling Andrew's book on Ebay.

That Ebay link:

Author: Andrew J. Olmsted, Andrew Olmstead, Nancy Olmstead


Publisher's Note
A collection of blogs written by Major Andrew J. Olmstead while serving in Iraq.

Just noting. Not worth doing anything about. Hell, might sell another copy.

I doubt this will earn the Olmsted family a nickel, but so it goes, and as always, I may be entirely wrong.

I have updated this post with an addendum. Apologies for formatting errors. I believe I understand some of what's going on with Typepad's HTML and rich text editors, and I'm trying to learn the further HTML necessary to deal with what the RTF inserts, as I go.

Tables, divs, CSS, etc. Am learning.


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