Andrew Olmsted Killed in Iraq
Major Andrew Olmsted, a longtime blogger and Army Reservist, was killed in action yesterday when his unit was ambushed.
His Obsidian Wings colleague Hilzoy had the sad honor of posting his final blog missive. Her lead-in:
Andrew Olmsted, who also posted here as G’Kar, was killed yesterday in Iraq. Andy gave me a post to publish in the event of his death; the last revisions to it were made in July.
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.
My thoughts are with his wife, his parents, and his brother and sister.
As are mine and those of others he touched through his writing.
I never met Andy in person, although we corresponded a bit through emails and cross-blog exchanges. Indeed, I offered and he accepted a position as an OTB associate blogger last February, shortly before deployment, but he was ordered to stop all blogging not approved by Army brass almost immediately thereafter.
He did ultimately get the opportunity to blog at the Rocky Mountain News. In his last missive for them, he wrote about spending Christmas handing out toys to Iraqi children. And a little about the nature of the enemy:
Handing out gifts is great fun, but in Iraq you always have to be alert for the possibility that the enemy will take advantage of the opportunity to turn such an event to their advantage. Iraqi soldiers handing how clothing is good for building relationships between the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi people. A suicide bomb in a crowd of children seeking gifts could destroy that in a heartbeat, however, so while we enjoyed the scene of the Iraqi soldiers handing out clothes, toys, candy, and more to the hordes of Iraqi children, we were pleased to see that they also remained alert to potential threats, and they handed out a lot of great gifts that, we hope, will provide just a little help to families down on their luck.
He expressed these wishes in his post-mortem message:
What I don’t want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin. I’m dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. 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.) I had a pretty good life, as I noted above. Sure, all things being equal I would have preferred to have more time, but I have no business complaining with all the good fortune I’ve enjoyed in my life. So if you’re up for that, put on a little 80s music (preferably vintage 1980-1984), grab a Coke and have a drink with me. If you have it, throw ‘Freedom Isn’t Free’ from the Team America soundtrack in; if you can’t laugh at that song, I think you need to lighten up a little. I’m dead, but if you’re reading this, you’re not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.
Here’s one of many versions of the song via YouTube:
While this shouldn’t need saying, it probably does:
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.
The Rocky Mountain News has published a moving obituary.
He was the first casualty for 2008 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.
As expected, many, many more bloggers have added their tributes: Phil Carter, John Donovan, TigerHawk, Michael Totten, Noah Shachtman, Bruce McQuain, Joe Katzman, Kate McMillan, Matt Yglesias, Virginia Postrel, BitchPhD, Brad DeLong, Kevin Hayden, and many, many, more.
Tim Blair cranks up the ’80s music: “Life During Wartime” by Talking Heads.
Jim Henley, following Andy’s injunction to remember him as he was, quips, “Dude, check it out! Your last post is getting linked everywhere!” He follows it with a more maudlin post, describing their friendship-by-correspondence.