Cpl. Andy D. Anderson, 24, whose family recently moved to Vienna from Falls Church, was described by family members as someone who thrived on helping others and who found a sense of purpose and direction in his work for the Army. His family said he had decided to complete a full 20-year term with the military and, about a month ago, had proposed to his high school sweetheart.
Those plans were cut short on Tuesday, June 6. Anderson and another member of the 46th Engineer Battalion were killed when their camp in Ar Ramadi, Iraq came under "indirect enemy fire during combat operations," according to Department of Defense documentation.
His 21-year-old brother, Rafael, said Anderson was killed by a mortar round while building a barracks.
In his third year in the Army, Anderson had recently been promoted in Iraq to the rank of corporal and had re-enlisted for another four years, said Rafael. "I talked to his captain, and he said everyone loved being around him," he said of his brother. "He said he was a natural leader."
After a year at Shenandoah University, Anderson decided to join the Army, said Rafael. "That was where he found his calling." The military, he said, gave Anderson discipline and a sense of direction. Rafael recalled that when his brother visited home about a month ago, he was enthusiastic about the work he was doing. "I've never seen my brother so proud and so fulfilled," he said.
He also described Anderson as devoted to his roles of friend, brother and boyfriend. "He's leaving a lot of people that are going to miss him."
"His family was very important to him, and he loved his country," said his aunt, Barbara Anderson Harris, from Houston. "That's what he believed in."
Anderson's mother, Xiomara Mena, said her son had been a well-behaved, shy but curious child, and one who "loved helping other people." In the Army, she said, he had gained confidence as he earned the respect and friendship of his brothers-in-arms.
"He was just so proud to be a soldier," said Rafael's twin, Randall, noting that his father and other family members had exhorted Anderson not to return to Iraq. "But he was on a mission." It made sense, said Randall, only in light of the effect that combat had on him. "Each time he came home for break, he matured and he had more discipline," he said. "It changed his life."
He said he thought military service appealed to Anderson because "He loved to help and being part of something big."
"He felt good that he was doing something good for the people, rebuilding the country," said Mena.
She recalled that Anderson, a respected football and basketball player at JEB Stuart High School, was generous with friends and teammates, as well. She said he routinely brought people home for dinner and "always wanted to make sure everybody had a ride." His athletic prowess and friendly nature also made him a role model for younger neighbors, said Mena.
"He was my prize," she wept.
Collecting herself, she recounted her last conversation with her son, when he called at 4 a.m. the day before his death, fully aware of the hour but phoning anyway for a quick hello before his lunch. "He said, 'I love you, mom. I'll call you later,'" she said. "He always used to say that — 'I love you, mom, and God bless.'"
A viewing is scheduled for Tuesday, June 20 from 6 p.m. to midnight at Crossroads Baptist Church, 5811 Hoffmans Lane, Falls Church. A military service and burial is scheduled for Wednesday, June 21 at Ft. Myer Chapel by Arlington National Cemetery at 3 p.m. Interment will be at Arlington National Cemetery.