January 05, 2008

Major Andrew Olmsted, RIP

Major Andrew Olmsted, 38

From the Rocky Mountain News, where he blogged (video, Major Andrew Olmsted explains his reasons for service and his training assignment, and comments from his wife, Amanda; RMN slideshow):
He was the first 2008 casualty in Iraq. And a small part of Maj. Andrew Olmsted likely would've chuckled at that fact. It would be droll and play into his sense of self-deprecation.

But for everyone else, the news would be devastating.

Amanda Wilson, his wife of 10 years, could barely talk Friday. The notifying officers came to her door in Colorado Springs on Thursday to tell her that Olmsted's unit had been ambushed and that he was dead. Also killed was Cpt. Thomas J. Casey, 32, of Albuquerque.

It was small-arms fire, they said. The gaping blackness after that moment seemed to suck away all the words, leaving only soft sobs in their wake.

"I know," she said quietly when condolences were passed on to her.

Her mother, who was flown in Friday to help, also was having trouble with the news. "She's trying to be brave," Wilson's mother said.

Olmsted, however, asked everyone to avoid being maudlin. And he asked everyone via a blog, of course. The 38-year-old soldier based out of Fort Carson was a prolific blogger - including one he did steadily for the Rocky Mountain News dating back to May.

Always prepared, the former Eagle Scout asked a friend to post a blog in the event of his death.

"I'm dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends," he wrote. "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.)"

A longtime friend and fellow soldier stationed at Fort Dix, N.J., laughed. "That's him all right," Maj. Dave Willis said.

Then he did what Olmsted asked him not to do. He cried.
Major Olmsted left behind the pre-written "Final Post" to be published in these circumstances (this is a mere excerpt, read the whole thing):
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?

I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don't drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don't cite my name as an example of someone's life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't support. Further, this is tough enough on my family without their having to see my picture being used in some rally or my name being cited for some political purpose. You can fight political battles without hurting my family, and I'd prefer that you did so.

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.
Major Olmsted blogged about his experiences in Iraq, and the RMN did a background intro back in June.

Obsidian Wings:
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.

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