United States Army Private First Class
Andrew H. Nelson
March 31, 1987 to December 25, 2006
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” John 15:13
Private First Class Andrew Henning Nelson was born March 31, 1987, in St. Johns Michigan. Andrew was the first child born to Alan and Tami Nelson. Two and a half years later, Andrew would become the big brother to Jessica Mari Nelson, and seven years after Andrew was born he became the big brother to Stephanie Marie Nelson. Andrew was very proud of his little sisters. He was always excited to go to the hospital after they were born to wear the doctor’s mask, scrub, and hold the babies.
Shortly after Andrews first birthday, he was dedicated to God (similar to baptism) at Pilgrim United Methodist Church in St. Johns by Pastor Larry Shrout. Alan and Tami, along with Andrews God Parents, Buz and Trish Zamarron, and most of Andrews Grand Parents and Aunts and Uncles were all present.
Andrew started pre-school when he was five years old. He went to Meadowland Nursery School at Pilgrim United Methodist. From the very earliest age, Andrew always got along great with other kids. One year later he started Kindergarten at Eureka Christian School. He attended Eureka Christian School thru the third grade, and then went to Perrin Palmer Public School for fourth and fifth grade. Andrews’s teachers always said that “Andrew is a Natural Born Leader” and that academically “he was exceptionally gifted”.
All thru school, including high school, Andrew was always pretty much an “A/B” student, although once in a while he would have a “C”. Andrew was the kind of student that things just came naturally to him. Not only did he have the brains, but he had common sense too. When Andrew graduated from high school, he took all of his graduation money and put it into a Roth IRA. That shows you the type of person he was, very self disciplined and very responsible.
When Andrew was just a young boy, maybe three or four years old, he used to get all excited when the garbage truck used to pull up in front of the house. He would say “I am going to be a Garbage Man when I grow up”. By the time he was about five years old he had graduated from the Garbage Man to a Fireman. No matter what city we were in, we had to stop at the fire department so Andrew could look at the fire trucks, and many times get his picture taken with them. I think we have seen every fire department from St. Johns to Traverse City. After the Fireman phase, Andrew moved to the Police Officer phase. When he was about seven years old, Andrews Grandma Moore made him an authentic Police uniform. He was so proud to wear that uniform; he actually looked like a real Police Officer. By the time Andrew was about nine or ten, he had started showing interest in being a Soldier. Every Halloween he was an Army man. Andrew would constantly play Army, if there were a stick on the ground, he would pick it up and pretend it was a gun making shooting noises, and shooting at all kinds of stuff that wasn’t even there. He had a very active imagination.
When the United States was attacked on 9-11, Andrew was about 14 years old. It was right after that when Andrew was really starting to show a “real” interest in the United States Army. Andrew loved to read about World War II, or watch the History Channel if there were anything on about World War II. He could tell you anything you wanted to know about World War II. He knew about every battle, he could tell you all the Generals names; he was almost obsessed about learning all he could about World War II. As you can tell, Andrew has always been the type of person who was destined to be a Public Servant of some sort.
Andrew was also a very good athlete. He started swimming for the St. Johns Sea Lions when he was about nine years old. By the time he was 14, he had earned many awards and medals during his time in the Sea Lions, including “Most Improved”, “101% Award” and the 13-14 Year Old Boys “Swimmer of the Year” Award. Andrew also swam all four years in high school. He was a four year Varsity Letter Winner, and was the Captain of the Swim Team his senior year. Andrew had earned numerous medals and awards in high school, including 2002 MISCA Greater Lansing All Area Swimming and Diving Team “Honorable Mention”, 2004 MISCA Zone 7 All Zone Team “Honorable Mention”, and 2005 MISCA Zone 7 All Zone Team “2nd Team”. Andrew qualified for the State Championship as an alternate his freshman year, and qualified for the State Championship in his individual events in his sophomore, junior and senior years.
Andrew was fluent in all the strokes, but primarily swam butterfly and the individual medley. Andrew and his team ended his senior year in a very exciting way. They ended up undefeated for the whole season; conference/invitational champs, and had beaten Alma twice that year, something they hadn’t done in several years. After the first meet that they beat Alma, Andrew was so happy, he was almost in tears. For the four years that Andrew swam in high school, they had won the Conference/Invitational Meet every year, and they also won the Waverly Relays all four years. Andrew was exciting to watch, no, he wasn’t the best swimmer on the team, but he would come thru when the Coach needed him to. We have a lot of great memories at the swimming pool; swimming has been a huge part of Andrew, Jessica and Stephanie’s lives, and they have all brought many good memories to our entire family.
Swimming also introduced Andrew to the Stinnetts. Tom and Nadine were practically Andrews second set of parents, and Cody and Sydnee were like a brother and sister. Cody and Andrew were the best of friends from the time they met right thru the end. Cody was proudly Andrews Best Man in his wedding. Andrew had a lot of good friends; there was never anyone that Andrew brought home that we didn’t approve of. He made good choices and now has a lot of people who loved him and will continue to honor him.
Andrew has always been a proud American. When he was about six years old, he knew every word to the Lee Greenwood song “God Bless the USA” and sang the song in three different talent shows. His love for his Country and his fellow man started at a very early age. He also had another love, Kristi. He and Kristi started dating in their junior year. Toward the end of their senior year, we could tell that they were getting very serious. Andrew and Kristi had started talking about marriage, possibly a 2006 wedding on the beach.
It didn’t take a recruiter to get Andrew to sign up for the Army. When he was 17 years old, he went to the Army recruiting station and signed up in the “Delayed Entry Program”. He spent his senior year not only doing studies, and swimming, but also spending many weekends training and preparing for the Army. Andrew graduated high school in June of 2005, and then left for Basic Training/AIT Training on July 12, 2005.
While Andrew was at Basic Training in Fort Leonard Wood Missouri, he had learned that he would be shipped to Germany and eventually to Iraq. Andrew asked the love of his life, Kristi Rewerts, daughter of Norman and Danita Rewerts to marry him before he left for Germany, moving up their wedding plans by one year. We were very happy for both of them; they were perfect for each other, and we gladly accepted Kristi into our family as our new daughter-in-law. Andrew graduated from Basic/AIT Training on October 28, 2005, and then was married to Kristi on November 5, 2005. Even though it wasn’t the beach wedding they dreamed about, it was a very beautiful wedding, and Andrew couldn’t have been any happier.
On Sunday November 27, 2005, Andrew left for Germany. This would be the last time that we ever seen him in person. Unfortunately Kristi was not able to join him in Germany until almost the middle of March, 2006. The timing for her arrival in Germany was good though, as both of their birthdays are in March, Kristi on the 24th and Andrew on the 31st. Once Kristi was in Germany they took a long awaited honeymoon to Paris France and London England for a week.
Andrew and Kristi would continue to live in their apartment in Germany for the next few months, and we would stay in touch with them thru phone calls, and chatting and webcaming on the internet. On August 31, 2006 Andrew left for Kuwait. This would be the last time that Kristi would ever see Andrew in person. Andrew spent about 6 weeks training in Kuwait and then in mid October he left for Baghdad Iraq. Andrew was assigned to Alpha Company, 9th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.
While in Iraq, Andrew lived at Camp Liberty in a small trailer similar to the Hurricane Katrina trailers. We were fortunate that Andrew had his laptop with him and he had an internet connection, so we were able to chat with him quite regularly. If more than a few days went by without hearing anything from him, we would naturally be concerned, but then he would pop online and just say that they had been very busy with missions. Andrew never talked about missions with us. I think he just didn’t want us to worry. We sent many books to Iraq for Andrew, mostly about Army, or WWII, or about some General he was fascinated with. He loved to read.
Kristi was going to stay in Germany for Christmas to spend the holiday in their apartment, but Andrew made her come home to be around her family for the holidays. Thank God Andrew made her come home, knowing now how things ended up. On Christmas morning 2006, Kristi got the chance to webcam with Andrew for a few minutes. Not knowing at the time, this would be the last time that anyone back home would ever see Andrew or hear his voice.
Andrew had volunteered to be the driver of the lead vehicle for this particular mission. A mission called “Dagger Iron Claw Route Clearance”, it was considered to be one of the most important jobs in the mission. At 3:45pm Michigan time, 11:45pm Baghdad time, Christmas day, an Improvised Explosive Device detonated near his vehicle, killing Andrew instantly, and also killing two of his fellow Soldiers, Sergeant John Bubeck and Specialist Aaron Preston, and wounding one other Soldier.
Some of Andrews Commanding Officers had some very nice comments about him during a memorial service held in Iraq for him and his fellow fallen Soldiers. Lieutenant MacPhail said “Andrew Nelson was the old school type Soldier. By that I mean that he could have assaulted the beaches of Normandy, or fought in the swamps of Vietnam, he was the same caliber of Soldier as any one of the heroes from those eras. He had a drive in him that I have not seen in any other Soldier”. Lieutenant MacPhail continues “His nick name was ‘Ranger Rick’ in the platoon. He had every gadget and cool high speed toy that you could want. Sometimes he would buy it and realize it didn’t work the way he thought it would, so he just modified it and adapted it to make it work. He truly lived by warrior ethos, he would never quit, or leave someone behind, and he always placed the mission first and never accepted a failure”. Captain McKenzie said “Private First Class Andrew Nelson possessed a solid work ethic and unwaiverable morals”. Captain McKenzie also said “He was well liked across the company and served as a role model for his peers”.
Andrews Military Awards and Decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, and the Combat Action Badge. Andrew was one of two Soldiers of the entire Brigade that was recommended for early promotion. However, Andrew was killed two weeks prior to the time he would have received his promotion.
Andrew is truly a Hometown Hero. His entire family is all very proud of him, as well are all of his friends and the entire town of St. Johns. Although Andrews’s life was short, he touched a lot of people in both his life and his death. He will be forever missed. Someone had sent us a card that really meant a lot to us and it said that “very few people ever reach their goals or live their dreams, but Andrew got to do both in his short life”. Andrew reached his goal of being an American Soldier, and he lived his dream of marrying his high school sweetheart Kristi.
We all love Andrew very much, and he will truly be missed, but we will be together again in Heaven someday. Thank you Andrew for all you have done for all of us. You truly are our Hero and we are very proud of you!
Never forget all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, those who have fought, and those who continue to fight for our freedom. Please keep all of these Soldiers and their families in your prayers.
The Family of PFC Andrew H. Nelson