Andrew Olmsted, who blogged at Obsidian Wings, was killed yesterday in Iraq, where he was serving in the military. Months ago he composed a post to be published in case he died. It's here, and it's heartbreaking. There may be other notes that people serving in Iraq wrote to be read in case they died, but I haven't seen any of them, and I can't imagine they could be more powerful than this one. He says that he doesn't want his death to be used by either side in the debate on the Iraq war, but he also notes that it is easy to gloss over the human costs of war, and that many people do it. Olmsted's post makes that harder to do.

Andrew was a wonderful writer and an incredibly soulful human being. It's hard to read his post and it's hard to comprehend his loss.
1.4.2008 6:12pm
samuil (mail):
I have enjoyed his postings. We even had occasional exchanges. Great guy.Horrible loss.
1.4.2008 6:20pm
WHOI Jacket:
I regret now not reading his posts. Too much stuff on the tubes, I guess.

To the everlasting glory of the Infantry...
1.4.2008 6:24pm
Wow. I can only say thanks, Andrew.
1.4.2008 6:32pm
I posted this on another site, but it's worth repeating:

God bless you, Andy.

I hope you're pleasantly surprised about what comes after.
1.5.2008 11:49am
Danny J. Boggs (mail):
Reading the pre-written obit bright to mind what I consider an even greater one -- written By John Hottell, USMA '64. I met him only once, when he beat me out for the Kentucky nomination for the Rhodes Scholarship, went on to win the Scholarship and study at Oxford before dying in Vietnam. In his memory, I reprint it here.

I am writing my own obituary for several reasons, and I hope none of them are too trite. First, I would like to spare my friends, who may happen to read this, the usual clichés about being a good soldier. They were all kind enough to me and I not enough to them. Second, I would not want to be a party to perpetuation of an image that is harmful and inaccurate: "glory" is the most meaningless of concepts, and I feel that in some cases it is doubly damaging. And thirdly, I am quite simply the last authority on my own death.
I loved the Army: it reared me, it nurtured me, and it gave me the most satisfying years of my life. Thanks to it I have lived an entire lifetime in 26 years. It is only fitting that I should die in its service. We all have but one death to spend, and insofar as it can have any meaning it finds it in the service of comrades-in-arms.

And yet, I deny that I died FOR anything – not my Country, not my Army, not my fellow man, none of these things. I LIVED for these things, and the manner in which I chose to do it involved the very real chance that I would die in the execution of my duties. I knew this, and accepted it, but my love for West Point and the Army was great enough – and the promise that I would someday be able to serve all the ideals that meant anything to me through it was great enough – for me to accept this possibility as a part of a price which must be paid for all things of great value. If there is nothing worth dying for – in this sense – there is nothing worth living for.

The Army let me live in Japan, Germany, and England with experiences in all of these places that others only dream about. I have skied in the Alps, killed a scorpion in my tent camping in Turkey, climbed Mount Fuji, visited the ruins of Athens, Ephesus, and Rome, seen the town of Gordium where another Alexander challenged his destiny, gone to the Opera in Munich, plays in the West End of London, seen the Oxford- Cambridge rugby match, gone for pub crawls through the Cotswolds, seen the night-life in Hamburg, danced to the Rolling Stones, and earned a master's degree in a foreign university.

I have known what it is like to be married to a fine and wonderful woman and to love her beyond bearing with the sure knowledge that she loves me; I have commanded a company and been a father, priest, income-tax advisor, confessor, and judge for 200 men at one time; I have played college football and rugby, won the British National Diving Championship two years in a row, boxed for Oxford against Cambridge only to be knocked out in the first round and played handball to distraction – and all of these sports I loved, I learned at West Point. They gave me hours of intense happiness.

I have been an exchange student at the German Military Academy, and gone to the German Jumpmaster School, I have made thirty parachute jumps from everything from a balloon in England to a jet at Fort Bragg. I have written an article that was published in Army magazine, and I have studied philosophy.

I have experienced all these things because I was in the Army and because I was an Army brat. The Army is my life, it is such a part of what I was that what happened is the logical outcome of the life I lived. I never knew what it is to fail, I never knew what it is to be too old or too tired to do anything. I lived a full life in the Army, and it has exacted the price. It is only just.
1.5.2008 3:13pm
I wonder how heartbreaking obits in Der Sturmer were. After all those boys were dying protecting homeland from terrorists in occupied countries.
1.5.2008 7:30pm
Barry P. (mail):
If another country invaded and occupied the US and set up a puppet government, how heartbroken would any of you be when domestic resistance fighters caused the death of a foreign occupier?
1.5.2008 9:59pm
Barry P., grieve for the man, not the cause.
R.I.P. Col. Olmsted.
1.6.2008 12:12am
Pliny, the Elder (mail):
I did not know Andrew Olmsted. I will pray for his family while at my mobilization station this week.
1.6.2008 12:22am
censorship_never_works (mail):
1.6.2008 3:10am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
You'll note that Maj. Olmsted chose to return to active duty because he thought he should.
1.6.2008 10:27am
submandave (mail) (www):
patroe and Barry P., thank you for promptly sinking to the low expectations I had that the Major's wish to not have his life and death politicized would be promptly ignored. I leave it to other readers to form their own opinion as to which quarter was quicker to put on their tap shoes after the grave had been filled.
1.7.2008 12:28pm

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