Fallen Soldier's Body Returned
A Southern Pines soldier from Connecticut who died in Afghanistan is expected to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Funeral arrangements are incomplete, but last week the governor of his home state of Connecticut ordered flags flown at half-staff in honor of Capt. Andrew Michael Pedersen-Keel.
“Captain Pedersen-Keel made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our state and our nation,” Gov. Daniel P. Malloy said. “Our thoughts are with his family, his friends, and his unit during this very difficult time. We pray for a safe homecoming for our troops who are stationed around the world, and thank them for their bravery and service.”
Flags At Half-Staff
The governor ordered both U.S. and Connecticut state flags to be flown at half-mast until burial or memorial services for the fallen soldier were concluded.
“This is a tragic and sad reminder that even as the conflict in Afghanistan is winding down there are still hundreds of Connecticut soldiers in harm’s way,” said Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman. “Captain Pedersen-Keel and every one of the other 63 brave men and women from our state lost in Afghanistan and Iraq died defending us and our freedom, and that sacrifice must never be forgotten.”
The governor’s office said Pedersen-Keel was killed by a member of the Afghan National Police while conducting a patrol brief in the Jalrez District of Wardak Province. The funeral arrangements have not been completed, but Fillmore McPherson, the first selectman of the soldier’s hometown has spoken with the Army liaison for the family and said he was told the burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery.
Two Soldiers Killed
Pedersen-Keel, 28, of Madison, Conn., died Monday of injuries incurred when he was attacked by small arms fire during a patrol in the Jalrez District of Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense. Staff Sgt. Rex L. Schad, 26, of Edmond, Okla., also was killed when a man in Afghan uniform opened fire on U.S. and Afghan soldiers Monday.
Pedersen-Keel graduated in 2002 from the Avon Old Farms School, an all-boys’ boarding school in Avon, before entering the U.S. Military Academy. His mother, Helen Pedersen, and stepfather Henry Keel, moved to Madison in 2003, McPherson said on Wednesday.
“It's always a loss when one of these fine young men is killed, and it's doubly a loss when you have a local connection like this,” McPherson said. “The entire town is reaching out to the parents at this time of their grief.”
People are joining his family in remembrance by sending mail and signing a memorial book in the town hall.
“Many Madison residents have expressed their sorrow at the death of Captain Andrew Pedersen-Keel in Afghanistan and wish to show their support to his parents who live here in town,” said McPherson. “A condolence book is available here in Town Hall … for people to come and sign. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The VFW and American Legion will be providing honor guards for the book signing.”
McPherson said anyone wishing to mail cards of condolence may address them to:
- Parents of Captain Andrew Pedersen-Keel
- c/o First Selectman’s office, Town Hall
- 8 Campus Drive
- Madison, CT 06443
This was Pedersen-Keel's second deployment in support of operations in Afghanistan.
The Connecticut National Guard notified his mother at her home on Monday night and escorted her to Dover Air Force Base to observe the dignified transfer of remains Tuesday, according to Col. John Whitford, spokesman for the Connecticut National Guard. A casualty assistance officer has been assigned to her by the Army. Pedersen-Keel’s father lives in Florida.
“(Burial service at Arlington) would suggest that there will not be a funeral here, but there may very well be a memorial service at some point,” McPherson said. “We would like to render full honors but we will adhere to what the family requests.”
As of Thursday morning, no decision had been made yet on any of the arrangements, Whitford said. That information will be forthcoming. Meanwhile, a flag was lowered to half-staff over his old dormitory at Old Farm School which held its own memorial service Saturday.
“The American flag that proudly waves above Diogenes dormitory is at half-mast today honoring our fallen Avonian, Andrew Pedersen-Keel ’02, affectionately known to all on campus as PK,” Headmaster Ken LaRocque said in a tribute posted online. “Throughout his impressive four-year career at Avon, PK embraced all that our school had to offer. As a Dean’s List student, tri-sport varsity athlete, dormitory monitor, and editor-in-chief of the Avon Record, PK was a well-respected leader in our school community. Above his academic and athletic achievements, however, was PK’s appreciation for the Avon brotherhood. He was a true leader, which is why it came as no surprise that he was admitted to West Point. PK was thrilled by the opportunity to serve his country.”
The all-boys private school had been out on break when the news broke Tuesday, and school officials were busy notifying the school community Wednesday afternoon.
“The Avon community is a better place because of Captain Andrew Pedersen-Keel. He will be deeply missed, but never forgotten,” LaRocque said.
The headmaster cited something the soldier had chosen for his senior yearbook quote before leaving for West Point.
“Just surrender to the cycle of things, give yourself to the waves of the Great Change, and when it is time to go, then simply go, without any unnecessary fuss,” he’d written in words from T’ao Chien.
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