Army Major Andy Olmsted

Major Andrew OlmstedPopular MilBlogger Andy Olmsted was killed in Iraq by a sniper on January 3, 2008. He was the commander of a unit whose mission was to teach members of the Iraqi Army how to defend their country and provide security for their people. Andy was determined to make a difference in Iraq, according to The Rocky Mountain News, where he was published.

Major Andrew Olmsted was cut down by sniper fire as he tried to talk three insurgents into surrendering. He gave his own life attempting to save the life of three Iraqis. One of his men, Captain Tom Casey, thinking the Major had been shot by the insurgents, went to his aid, and was also killed by the sniper.

The last entry Andy posted in the Rocky Mountain News, published on December 26, 2007, can be found here. It talks about handing out gifts to Iraqi children. Notice in the comments that his mother-in-law was the first to post the notice of his death, saying, "I'm sure Andy has a special place in heaven."

Last summer Andy wrote a final post to be published in the event of his death, and gave it to a friend, fellow blogger hilzoy, who writes for Obsidian Wings.

This is a portion of Andy's final post. You can read the entire post by clicking on either link above. The first link will take you directly to Andy Olmsted's blog, where you can read his other posts. The second link will take you to the post on Obsidian Wings where hilzoy posted Andy's final blog entry, along with her comment "Andy was a wonderful person: decent, honorable, generous, principled, courageous, sweet, and very funny." That page also has links to places where comments and condolences are being posted.

"'I am leaving this message for you because it appears I must leave sooner than I intended. I would have preferred to say this in person, but since I cannot, let me say it here.'
-- G'Kar, Babylon 5

'Only the dead have seen the end of war.'
-- Plato

This is an entry I would have preferred not to have published, but there are limits to what we can control in life, and apparently I have passed one of those limits. And so, like G'Kar, I must say here what I would much prefer to say in person. I want to thank hilzoy for putting it up for me. It's not easy asking anyone to do something for you in the event of your death, and it is a testament to her quality that she didn't hesitate to accept the charge. . . .

I'm dead, but if you're reading this, you're not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact. . . .

Believe it or not, one of the things I will miss most is not being able to blog any longer. The ability to put my thoughts on (virtual) paper and put them where people can read and respond to them has been marvelous, even if most people who have read my writings haven't agreed with them.

If there is any hope for the long term success of democracy, it will be if people agree to listen to and try to understand their political opponents rather than simply seeking to crush them.

While the blogosphere has its share of partisans, there are some awfully smart people making excellent arguments out there as well, and I know I have learned quite a bit since I began blogging. I flatter myself I may have made a good argument or two as well; if I didn't, please don't tell me. It has been a great five-plus years. . . .

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?

[Ed. note: See the description above of the circumstances of Major Olmsted's death.]

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. . . .

This is the hardest part. While I certainly have no desire to die, at this point I no longer have any worries. That is not true of the woman who made my life something to enjoy rather than something merely to survive. She put up with all of my faults, and they are myriad, she endured separations again and again...I cannot imagine being more fortunate in love than I have been with Amanda. Now she has to go on without me, and while a cynic might observe she's better off, I know that this is a terrible burden I have placed on her, and I would give almost anything if she would not have to bear it. It seems that is not an option. I cannot imagine anything more painful than that, and if there is an afterlife, this is a pain I'll bear forever.

I wasn't the greatest husband. I could have done so much more, a realization that, as it so often does, comes too late to matter. But I cherished every day I was married to Amanda. When everything else in my life seemed dark, she was always there to light the darkness. It is difficult to imagine my life being worth living without her having been in it. I hope and pray that she goes on without me and enjoys her life as much as she deserves. I can think of no one more deserving of happiness than her.

'I will see you again, in the place where no shadows fall.'
Ambassador Delenn, Babylon 5

I don't know if there is an afterlife; I tend to doubt it, to be perfectly honest. But if there is any way possible, Amanda, then I will live up to Delenn's words, somehow, some way. I love you."

This is a picture of Andy's unit, posted at Obsidian Wings by hilzoy, and we hope it's OK with her that we have reprinted it here for you:

MilBlogger Andy Olmsted with his unitCPT Tom Casey (who was also killed) is in the back, second from the left; SFC Beaver< (who was injured) is beside him, holding the Merry Christmas sign; MAJ Andy Olmsted is fifth from the left, holding the other end of the sign and smiling.

There is a grass roots effort springing up at Obsidian Wings to "do something" to honor Andy's memory. His family has asked that any donations be directed to the following address, for the benefit of Captain Casey's children:

Capt. Thomas Casey Children's Fund
P.O. Box 1306
Chester, CA 96020

Another selfless act, this time by Major Olmsted's family. A wonderful way for them to show their gratitude for Captain Casey's efforts to help Andy when he was wounded.

One report said Captain Casey left behind four children, and another that said he had two young sons. We're not sure which is accurate, but either way, it is a tragedy that these children will grow up without their father.

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