Evander Earl Andrews
Master Sergeant, United States Air Force
the Pentagon charred, punctured wall, mourners buried the first U.S. military
man killed in the campaign against international terror.
Air Force Master Sergeant Evander Andrews, 36, was killed October 10, 2001, in a forklift accident while helping in the construction of an airstrip in the Persian Gulf emirate Qatar. He entered the Air Force out of high school in his tiny central Maine hometown of Solon and was assigned to the 366th Civil Engineer Squadron from Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho.
At Andrews' funeral, held Monday in Arlington National Cemetery's stately Old Post chapel, Colonel Ken Shelton called the sergeant a man with a "behind-the-scenes style that was both sincere and heartfelt.''
Shelton, Andrews' former squadron commander, said he learned to recognize Andrews "by the soles of his boots and the back of his head,'' as he could much more often be found working on heavy equipment than sitting in an office.
"Leaders get involved - and Andy did,'' Shelton told the about 150 family, friends and Air Force personnel gathered for the service.
Family pastor Thomas Westall, a retired Air Force major, called Andrews a hero, prompting agreement from Andrews' 9-year-old son, Ethan. "Yep, he is a hero,'' the boy said in a small voice from the front row, where he sat with his mother, Judy, and three crying younger sisters, Leah, 6, Courtney, 4, and MacKenzie, 2.
An Air Force honor guard carried Andrews' flag-draped casket to the burial site, an area amid Arlington's rolling hills shaded by gold-tinged trees about 600 yards from the deep, blackened gash in the Pentagon. He was buried not far from the fresh graves of several who died when terrorist hijackers piloted a jetliner into the Defense Department headquarters.
Mourners gathered under the hot sun of an unusually balmy fall day as seven riflemen fired three volleys and a bugler sounded out the dolorous notes of "Taps.'' Pallbearers folded the flag and presented it to Andrews' widow and handed another flag to his mother.
Once Andrews' headstone takes its place among
the cemetery's sea of white, precision-aligned granite slabs, it will read
"Operation Enduring Freedom,'' the military's name for its campaign in
Afghanistan against those believed behind the September 11 terrorist attacks
against New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
SOLON, Maine - Evander Andrews left the family farm to join the Air Force and know more of the world than this speck of a town. Today, his family and town know more of the world too - almost more than they can bear.
Master Sergeant Andrews, assigned to the 366 Civil Engineer Squadron, reportedly became the first American soldier to die in the campaign against terrorists. He was killed Wednesday in a forklift accident while building an air strip in Aludeid, somewhere in Qatar, a peninsula in the Persian Gulf.
"We're bitter that a young man like this was taken,'' said his aunt, Dassie Jackson. "At 36, he's got his whole life ahead of him.''
Three Air Force officers and a deputy sheriff strode to the door of the family home before dawn Thursday to stir his parents, Odber and Mary. They were handed an official notice.
"It's always a tragedy when anyone dies away from home,'' said Captain Kelley Thibodeau, a spokeswoman for Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, where Andrews had been assigned.
Andrews came of age in this central Maine town of about 1,000, a bucolic land of hills and forests now in its seasonal russet-and-gold, punctuated this fall by red-white-and-blue. At its center, it holds little more than a country store, tack shop, old hotel, gas station and cemetery.
Andrews' family still raises cattle at the farm where he grew up, on the edge of the woods. He has three sisters but became close to his dad, who also worked as a mechanic on trucks and other big equipment. Together, they fixed engines. Later, they rode motorcycles.
Andrews, a strongly built boy on the quiet side, seemed as though he might become a farmer. But he signed up for the Air Force soon after graduating from high school. "He just wanted to see the world, see something different,'' says his aunt. Jobs were scarce locally anyway.
He met his wife, Judy, in 1990 in Missouri. She was enlisted in the Army; he, in the Air Force. She left the service, married Andrews, and together they headed for the Idaho air base. Their four children span ages 2 to 9.
"I ... accept the death of my husband in defense of our nation. He was a proud, professional career airman,'' his wife said in a statement released by family pastor Thomas Westall.
In the Air Force, Andrews operated bulldozers and the like. He felt at home around heavy equipment. He taught others, just as his father had once taught him.
His mother, a retired nurse, had felt uneasy since he shipped abroad a couple weeks ago. She and her husband are "devastated,'' said the aunt, but finding solace in their Baptist faith.
In a town restaurant inside the country store, several people from Solon and a nearby town were comforting themselves over coffee and roast beef Thursday evening.
"We're living our lives normally. That's what the president asked us to do. But when a boy gets killed .... `` Gloria Padham's voice trailed off.
Dennis Thompson, a truck driver who used to work with Andrews' father, agrees it is a horror. But then he starts again. "This is an awful way to put it, but if that's what it takes to straighten out this whole thing, that's what it takes.''
Even Andrews' uncle, Alfred Jackson, said his support for military action isn't wavering. "This country has got to protect itself,'' he said, but almost in a whisper.
His wife's glare had softened to tears. She agreed, then qualified: "reluctantly.''
Andrews' body was to be shipped to Germany,
then to a military mortuary in Dover, Del. His pastor said he will be buried
in Arlington National Cemetery, a place of honor far from home.
MacDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Florida - An Air Force sergeant was killed in a heavy equipment accident in the Arabian Peninsula, becoming the first announced death in Operation Enduring Freedom, military officials said Thursday.
Master Sgt. Evander Earl Andrews, who died Wednesday, was assigned to the 366th Civil Engineer Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. He was originally from Maine, the base said, but no details were immediately available.
Lieutenant Colonel Dave Lapan, a defense department spokesman at MacDill, said Andrews was at a "forward deployed location'' supporting the campaign when the incident happened. He gave no details, but Technical Sergeant Terry Nelson of the Mountain Home base said he was killed in the northern part of the Arabian Peninsula. That part of the peninsula includes such countries as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
A woman who answered the telephone Thursday morning at the Andrews home in Mountain Home said Andrews' wife, Judy, was not saying anything but would be meeting with her minister and might have something to say later. The woman did not identify herself.
In addition to Andrews, a soldier was seriously injured Wednesday in Turkey after being trapped between two trucks, military officials said.
Officials did not disclose the soldier's name, the extent of his injuries or the exact location of the accident.
He was airlifted to the military hospital in Germany.
"U.S. medical personnel on the scene performed initial lifesaving care,'' after which the soldier was taken to a U.S. base in Incirlik, Turkey, said Major Brad Lowell, a U.S. Central Command spokesman at MacDill.
The soldier was in serious but stable condition Thursday at the U.S. military's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, officials said.
An Air Force honor guard carries the casket of Master Sergeant Evander Andrews of
Solon, Maine, during a funeral service, Monday, October 22, 2001 at Arlington
National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. Andrews was the first reported American
death connected with the U.S. retaliation against terrorism, killed last week in a
forklift accident while building an air strip in Qatar.
Photo Courtesy of Roxsanne Wells-Layton, September 2006