Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Devastating Loss

The world is a little darker place today, as one of the best people that I have ever known is no longer in it.

Major Andrew Olmsted was killed by small arms fire in an ambush while leading his Mobile Training Team in Diyala province, Iraq on Thursday. He was one of my best friends.

In accordance with his last wishes and my own inclinations, there will be no political commentary here. It would be inappropriate. I simply want to take a few minutes and utilize my forum to remember my friend.

I wish I could post something worthy of the man and his life, but I lack his eloquence. As he would smile and point out, however, it is what it is.

Andy was quite simply one of the best people that I've ever met. We met just before OIF started, commanding companies in the same battalion at Fort Carson. He was one of those people that no one disliked --- pleasant, funny, self-effacing. He was a great leader because when at work two things were uppermost in his mind at all times, determination to do his job well and to take care of his folks while he was doing it. Even to the point of growing a mustache that he absolutely detested because he read that Iraqi men were suspicious of men without facial hair and thought it might interfere with his ability to help them. Such was Andy the soldier.

But Andy the human being was so much more. He was a writer. He wanted to be a professional writer, and he was well on his way. He was one of the most prolific and dedicated blog writers that I've known. He had to stop his personal blog in February when he went back on active duty. He posted under a pseudonym for a couple of months, as not blogging was bugging him. Since last May, he'd been writing a blog with the Army's permission on his experiences in Iraq for the Rocky Mountain News (the blog link is here). He was quite good at it, and getting noticeably better over time.

It is ironic that Andy was killed on the day of the Iowa Caucuses, because he loved politics. Not in any kind of rabid or obnoxious way, but through well-reasoned discussion. His countless blog posts illustrate this far better than I could. While I didn't always agree with him, I could never deny the logic of his thought process. I was really looking forward to hearing his insights on the races as they progressed.

Andy and his wife loved Disney World, and visited at least once every year. This was the dedicated Red Sox fan since childhood who finally got to see his team win the World Series. I'd say twice, but he was too busy to be able to catch all of the games this year. He was absolutely dedicated to his wife, and it was obvious to any observer that they were extremely close and very much in love.

As I thought back on it last night after I heard the news, I kept thinking how often Andy was around or had input on significant happenings in my life the last few years. Andy was the guy who helped me craft the strategy for the marriage proposal to my wife during our many drives from El Paso to Colorado Springs. The same drives that sparked what we jokingly referred to as "The Don and Andy Show." He had a wonderful, droll sense of humor, and we'd spend hours poking fun at each other. And Andy, should you somehow be able to see this, Gina finally admitted last night that we WERE funny...sometimes.

When we discovered in the middle of a deployment to Louisiana that I'd been promoted three days before, Andy was the guy who happily renewed my oath and pinned on my oak leaf. He and Amanda flew back east because he'd never been to Gettysburg, and we spent two days touring the battlefield. He and his wife attended our wedding, and they came to our welcome home party that unexpectedly became a party celebrating the birth of our son just before he deployed. It was the last time that I saw him.

He was always there, always positive, always supportive. He would gently point out errors in logic or provide advice, always available yet never pushy. He was, quite simply, an excellent friend.

As one who knew him might expect, Andy of course managed to have the calm, well-reasoned and eloquent last word. The link to his final blog post, left with a friend before he deployed, is linked here. I confess to not being in the most objective state of mind at the moment, but I was touched by its eloquence.

His words concerning his won death speak for themselves: "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."

Fare thee well, my friend. You will be sorely missed.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don,

What a sad event for his family and all those who knew him. Thank you for this wonderful remembrance of Major Olmsted.

Semper Fi,
Larry F.

Anonymous said...

Dear Don,

As a Civil War period living historian who spends a lot of time at Gettysburg (I noticed your mention of the two days you and he spent, along with your wives, there), I am deeply saddened by the loss of your best friend and fellow officer.

Your tribute did not indicate how long he and his wife were married but I hope it was long enough for them to be worthwhile, rather than a life together so rudely cut short as it was just beginning.

Even though he died in the performance of a duty he loved doing, his passing touches us all. I can not help but think at this time also of Tim McGraw's moving tribute to the fallen soldiers and their families last March at the Academy of Country Music awards: "If You're Reading This (I'm Already Home)" (link to lyrices here >> http://www.popular-lyrics.com/lyrics/tim-mcgraw/if-youre-reading-this-18088.html
which seemed very appropriate.

Whe I am at Gettysburg this coming april (or sooner than that if I should go there for a day), I will pay a visit to the National Cemetery there and pay my respects in his honor.

May we all have the courage to face our final moments with the same heroism as did he.

Another Martyr is Heaven Bound....

Anonymous said...

My condolences to you.

Thomas, denmark.

Eric Wittenberg said...

Don,

Please accept my condolences on your loss. Your friend sounds like a remarkable man, and we cannot afford to lose that sort of man.

Eric

Toddy said...

Tonight he will be welcomed at the table of heroes and they shall drink a toast in his name, in death there are no enemies, only fellow warriors.

Dulcius ex asperis

Opertet vivere

Sarah said...

Don,

I'm very sorry for your loss.

-- Sarah

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this greatfull remenbrance of Maj. Olmsted.
May his soul find his heaven.
My true condolences and tributes to the family and friends of Maj. Olmsted.
A remarkable Man, Father, Husband and Soldier.
Andrew
Germany

The Motivator said...

I am sorry to hear this.

Jenny said...

That's terrible Don. My sincere condolences.