January 07, 2008

Maj. Andrew Olmsted Spared Insurgents, Drew Sniper Fire

"He didn't want to kill these individuals. He was trying to save their lives"

More details emerge surrounding Major Andrew Olmsted's death
, including insight on a compassionate man and soldier committed to his mission to help the Iraqi people:
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."
. . .
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."
Capt. Casey's heroism in going to his fellow soldier's aid knowing they both were being fired upon by unseen sniper(s) should also not be forgotten:
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."

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