GI recalled as determined
“Determined” is the word that described Harley Dean Andrews, according to those who knew him.
His mother, Kim Barlow of Oregon, remembers a stubborn young man, very headstrong, but also very responsible.
“He knew what he wanted and didn't take any guff from anybody,” she said Thursday. Friends say that what Andrews wanted most was everything he didn't have, and he usually went for it.
“He was going to get it,” said friend Daniel Keeton. “He was so close.”
However, Andrews died Sunday in northern Iraq, a U.S. Army official confirmed Thursday. Andrews was a private first class with the 54th Engineering Battalion.
Andrews was 22 years old. He leaves behind a wife, Halley, and a 1-year-old-son, Adan. His father lives in Idaho, and he has five brothers and sisters.
His wife was still in Bamburg, Germany, where Andrews was posted at a U.S. base. She was not available for comment.
Family and friends were working out funeral details Thursday, but Andrews will be buried in Auburn, according to friend Jason Ketchum.
The Appeal-Democrat learned of Andrews' death Monday but withheld publishing his name until his death could be confirmed by military officials, which occurred Thursday.
Army officials notified Barlow of her son's death on Wednesday, she said.
Andrews, whose job was to seek out roadside bombs and disarm them, died on patrol when his vehicle drove over a bomb in the street, according to his mother.
“My son pretty much died instantly,” she said.
Andrews had questioned the U.S. presence in Iraq before his death, Ketchum and Barlow said.
“He didn't believe in the war, but he believed that what he was doing was right,” Barlow said. “He was over there hunting for bombs so people didn't get hurt,”
Ketchum and Andrews had conversations about how most Iraqis didn't want the U.S. military there, he said.
“Harley died for our freedom, but he didn't know why we were deploying there,” Ketchum said. “They (Iraqis) don't care. They don't want help.”
Friends and family this week tried to focus on happier memories. His mother remembered how Andrews changed over the years and watched him play with his son the last time she saw him several months ago.
“I watched him turn into a man before my eyes,” she said. “I was just getting to know the man.”
From the driveway at their Yuba City home, Ketchum and his wife, Melissa, talked of stray memories of Andrews - wrestling matches in the garage, Andrews scrambling on the roof to get a ball.
They often just sat around talking about life and relationships until the early hours of morning. They recalled hunting trips and Andrews skill as a carpenter and concrete worker.
Keeton remembered how he and Andrews would show up for school at the Feather River Academy, pushing each other in a shopping cart.
Melissa Ketchum recalled the first time she saw Andrews at a karate practice when they were younger. “He had the weirdest hair I've ever seen,” she said. “He was a freckle-faced little kid.”
She liked him right away, she said.
Andrews was the only person they knew who could do a standing back flip, the Ketchums said.
“We called him ‘The Ninja,'” Melissa said.
Jason Ketchum met Andrews about 10 years ago. Seven or so years ago, Andrews moved in with the Ketchum family with the permission of all the parents. He was only supposed to stay the summer. The stay became permanent because he didn't want to leave, Jason Ketchum said.
The biggest fear that he and other Andrews' friend had was losing him. They just didn't expect it to happen, he said.
“He's a hero,” said Jason Ketchum. Soldiers go off to fight wars so people back home don't have to, he said.
“Harley was for Yuba City,” he said.
Barlow was surprised at how many people knew her son.
“I found he touched so many different lives from so may different places,” she said. “I am just so proud of him. ... We love him and miss him.”
Appeal-Democrat reporter Daniel Witter can be reached at 749-4712. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.