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Soldier killed in Iraq voiced no regrets

Army major's blog was filled with humor and logic

US Army Major Andrew Olmsted, 37, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was killed Thursday in As Sadiyah, Iraq. US Army Major Andrew Olmsted, 37, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was killed Thursday in As Sadiyah, Iraq. (The Rocky Mountain News/File 2007)
Email|Print| Text size + By Steven H. Foskett Jr.
Telegram & Gazette Staff / January 7, 2008

Major Andrew J. Olmsted's last regular blog post on the Rocky Mountain News's website was about as unassuming as an online diary of an American soldier's experience in Iraq could be.

The 37-year-old wrote about his unit providing the Iraqi Army with gifts and toys to pass out during a Muslim holiday, in the hopes of creating good will among local residents.

"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," Olmsted wrote Dec. 26.

Eight days later, Olmsted, a 1992 graduate of Clark University in Worcester and a 1987 graduate of St. John's High School in Shrewsbury, died from wounds suffered when his unit was hit with small arms fire in As Sadiyah, Iraq, according to the Department of Defense.

Olmsted, of Colorado Springs, and another soldier from his unit were among the first soldiers killed in Iraq in the new year.

Originally from Maine, Olmsted grew up in Northborough, and received his bachelor's degree from Clark in 3 1/2 years, his father, Wesley Olmsted, said.

In a telephone interview from Wisconsin, where the elder Olmsted moved the family in 1990, he said his son and his brother, Eric Olmsted of Watertown, were Eagle Scouts and good students.

Andrew Olmsted leaves his wife, Amanda Wilson of Colorado Springs, who also attended Clark; and his mother, Nancy and a sister, Catherine Olmsted, both of Grafton, Wis.

Wesley Olmsted said that his son was a gifted writer, and that the outpouring of support from readers of his "From the Front Lines" blog for the Rocky Mountain News (www.rockymountainnews.com) has been overwhelming.

"His voice was a voice of reason, and was a voice of logic," Wesley Olmsted said. "He would discuss issues only to make people think."

Wesley Olmsted said his son's commanding officers called him personally, and he said he hopes to meet other members of his son's unit.

"I just want to talk with them," he said. "Get to know them a little."

Mitchell S. Cohen, a Douglas selectman who went to Clark with Andrew Olmsted and attended his wedding at Hammond Castle in Gloucester 10 years ago, said his friend was outspoken without being brash.

"He was a bright guy who would say what he felt without offending anyone," Cohen said.

In fact, Andrew Olmsted remained outspoken even after his death.

He submitted a final blog entry to the Obsidian Wings website (http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/) to be published in the event of his death. The entry was last revised in July, according to a contributor.

In the entry, Andrew Olmsted looked back on his life with humor and little regret, and urged his friends and loved ones not to get overemotional.

"What I don't want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin," he wrote. "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.)"

Wesley Olmsted said his son gravitated toward military service at an early age, and signed up for ROTC and National Guard service the summer before he headed to Clark.

Andrew Olmsted wrote that he didn't want his death to be used for political purposes.

"My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side," he wrote.

Cohen said he felt especially bad for Andrew Olmsted's wife, Amanda, with whom he was "madly in love," Cohen said. "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," Andrew Olmsted wrote. "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."

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