Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Andrew Joseph Baddick

Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

September 29, 2003

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
26 Army Sgt

1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division

Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Drowned Sept. 29 as he tried to rescue another soldier whose vehicle had entered a canal near Abu Ghraib Prison, Iraq.
 
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A.J. was posthumously awarded: The Soldiers Medal for Heroism 
A.J. could always been found kayaking on the Lehigh River (Jim Thorpe, PA) or any whitewater river. He loved the river.
A.J. is buried at Arlington National Cemetery VA
Friday, October 10, 2003
By Rob Stewart 
Carbon County Soldier Honored

The sound of bagpipes filed the air in Jim Thorpe Friday as a horse drawn carriage carried a soldier through his hometown.

Army Sergeant Andrew Baddick drowned last week in Iraq while trying to rescue another soldier whose vehicle fell into a canal. At St. Joseph's Church in Jim Thorpe it was a sad farewell for a hometown hero.

The bagpipes and bells offered a ringing tribute for Sergeant Baddick. A horse drawn caisson carried away a devoted son and soldier.

"It's a sad, sad situation. He tried to save the life of another person and lost his own," said Anna Sweden of Jim Thorpe.

Friends said that was the beauty of the soldier they called A. J., always putting others before himself in the way he lived and died.

"It was him, it was what he was and I can accept what happened because of that," said friend Sean O'Neill. He was one of dozens of firefighters to honor Sgt. Baddick, a volunteer firefighter himself. "He's a brother. We all honor our brothers. He was a good friend of mine from kayaking. I knew him well, so we honor our own," added O'Neill.

Sergeant Baddick's friends said his passion was kayaking. His wet suit sat empty inside the church, surrounded by pictures of happier times. Flanked by those who are called to serve, Baddick received the honor of both a military and a firefighter's funeral.

Sergeant Baddick will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
October 8, 2003

Father mourns fallen soldier
Son's burial request is honored

On September 30, 2003, Joseph M. Baddick received the phone call that every parent dreads: his son was dead.

Sergeant Andrew J. "A. J." Baddick, a Jim Thorpe, Carbon County, native stationed in Iraq with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, had died the night before while trying to save the life of a fellow serviceman.

Last Friday, Joseph Baddick opened his mailbox and found a letter from his late son, written shortly before his death.

"When I first saw the letter, I cried," said Baddick, 51, who lives in Centre Township in Berks County with his wife, Sheila, A. J.'s stepmother. "But when I opened it, and read it, I smiled."

In the letter, his son had talked a bit about his two-month tour of duty in Iraq, and recounted his part in a mission in which six Iraqi prisoners had been captured.

But the last few sentences were particularly poignant to Joseph Baddick. His son ended his letter by reminding his father of a conversation that they had a few months earlier, when A. J. was home on leave.

"He wanted to remind me about what he had told me when I last saw him, that if anything happened to him, he wanted to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery," Baddick said.

Many years before, when Andrew was just a boy, Joseph had taken him and his older sister, Elizabeth, who now lives in Jim Thorpe, to visit Arlington National Cemetery.

The memory of that visit made a lasting impression on young Andrew, and in the end, it had become part of his private last will and testament: to take his place of honor among them in death.

"It meant so much to him, to have the right to be buried there among so many honorable men, these fallen warriors. He wanted to be a part of that," Joseph Baddick said.

Andrew Baddick grew up in Jim Thorpe, where he lived with his mother, Ann Baddick, until graduating from Jim Thorpe Area High School in 1997.

He then worked as a river guide for Jim Thorpe River Adventures, a river rafting company on the Lehigh River, but found his true calling when he enlisted in the Army in 1999.

He completed basic training in Fort Hood, Texas, then went onto jump school in Fort Benning, Georgia, graduating in 2001.

He decided to re-enlist for six more years, and, like his father before him, become a member of the 82nd Airborne. Joseph Baddick had served in the 82nd Airborne from 1970 to 1973.

For six months, Andrew Baddick served at the 82nd Airborne headquarters in Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In 2002, he was awarded the Army Commendation medal for Meritorious Service, and in 2003 the Army Achievement Medal.

For many years, Andrew Baddick had also been a volunteer firefighter and ambulance volunteer in Jim Thorpe, so the fact that he died while trying to save another person's life doesn't surprise those who knew him, his father said.

"It doesn't surprise me that he died being a hero," Joseph Baddick said. "I'm sure he didn't even think about it. I'm sure that he'd dive right in to save someone's life. My son would do that."

In the days following his son's death, Joseph Baddick heard different accounts of what transpired that fateful night, but later talked to an eyewitness, who was there when his son perished.

Andrew Baddick was one of several soldiers traveling in a four-vehicle convoy that was responding to a mortar attack near Abu Ghraib prison on the west side of Baghdad, around 10:45 p.m.

The Humvee in front of them, carrying three military police officers from the 800th Military Police Brigade, suddenly swerved to avoid an obstacle in the road, and plunged into a nearby canal.

Andrew, being an experienced swimmer and kayaker, instinctively responded to a call for help, his father said.

"He had no fear of the water - he was an experienced swimmer and knew how to handle himself in raging water," Joseph Baddick said. "He jumped right in to rescue the driver for the Humvee, who was trapped."

But the turbulent water must have suddenly whirled the submerged vehicle around, striking A. J. in the head.

"They think he lost consciousness at that point, and drowned," Joseph Baddick said.

The trapped driver, Sergeant Darrin K. Potter, 24, of Louisville, Ky., also drowned, but the other two solders in the vehicle managed to escape.

Baddick, though heartbroken over his only son's death, said he harbors no bitterness.

"My feeling is that I believe fully in what President Bush is doing. We watch the news every night and hear that more soldiers are killed, but if it's not somebody you know, you're not close to it. It doesn't really hit home," he said.

"But that's the price we have to pay for freedom," Baddick added. "It gives me some comfort knowing that my son died being a hero." 
Fate joins two soldiers: 8 November 2003

Sergeant Andrew J. Baddick died more than a month ago while attempting to save another soldier whose vehicle had plunged into an Iraqi drainage canal.

Three men were saved that day. Sergeant Baddick died in a heroic effort to save a fourth soldier who didn't make it.

Who was the man that a 26-year-old Jim Thorpe soldier sacrificed his life to try and save?

The Baddick family found out recently, when they received a letter from the officer who was in charge of the deceased while he was stationed in the U.S.

The letter said:

"From the men and women of the Kentucky National Guard, please accept our deepest condolences for the loss of your son Andrew. At a time like this I realize there is little I can say to lessen your sense of sorrow and loss; however, I would like to express my personal gratitude for the efforts made by your son to save the life of one of my soldiers, Sergeant Darrin K. Potter, age 24. I had the privilege of knowing Sergeant Potter and would like you to know that he was an exceptionally fine young man.

Sergeant Potter was a member of the 223rd Military Police Company, Kentucky Army National Guard. His squad was engaged in joint patrolling with your son's unit in an attempt to locate and disrupt an enemy mortar crew that had previously attacked American soldiers, causing loss of life as well as injuries. Although this is not an official report, based on my conversations with members of Sergeant Potter's unit, it appears that the patrol was moving toward the enemy locations when his vehicle failed to negotiate a sharp turn at the top of a steep bank and went into a deep and swiftly moving drainage canal.

Your son's unit immediately came to their aid, assisting two soldiers to shore and, when it became apparent that a third soldier would not be able to make it, your son unhesitatingly went into the water after him and saved his life. After successfully locating that soldier and helping him to shore, your son reported that there was someone else down there, presumably Sergeant Potter, and went back in after him; neither of them surfaced after that point and their bodies were recovered sometime later.

In discussion with Major General Swannack, Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division, I learned that your son was an exceptionally well-regarded young man who had already contributed much and had great future potential. Clearly, he exemplified the truth that no greater love hath a man than he lay down his life for his brother. Please accept our deepest sympathies for his loss.

D. Allen Youngman
Major General, Kentucky National Guard
The Adjutant General
December 10, 2003

2 Carbon heroes honored by state
Soldier's mother still seeks closure without having seen body.

HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA - Grief has cut hard into the heart of Ann Baddick, who mourns the death of her son, Sergeant Andrew J. Baddick of Jim Thorpe, on September 29, 2003, while he was trying to rescue a soldier in Iraq whose vehicle had plunged into a canal.

Baddick's anguish over not seeing her son's body before burial overshadowed a visit Tuesday to Harrisburg, where state lawmakers honored A.J., as he was called, with a standing ovation.

Also honored was Brian Firkal of Nesquehoning, who died trying to save a boy from drowning in Ocean City, Maryland, two days before Andrew Baddick was killed.

Baddick, 26, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on October 14, 2003.

Without telling her why, Ann Baddick said, the Army refused to let her view her son's body. The Army even denied her plea to look one last time at the tattoo of an iguana on his shoulder, its tail wrapped around his upper left arm.

He got the iguana tattoo on the sly, his mother said with a sad smile, because she wouldn't let him keep one.

''I have no closure, no peace of mind,'' she said. ''Even if they don't let me see his face, if they would have just let me look at the tattoo on his arm.''

Army spokeswoman Shari Lawrence said she could not comment on the Baddick case but said it's rare for a family to be denied one last look at a loved one.

''It takes a lot for us to say to the family, 'We don't recommend you do this,''' she said. ''It is very, very rare that we are going to say that to a family.''

A casualty assistance officer may be able to resolve the issue, she said. The officer works with the family until the family decides the help isn't needed.

Lawrence said ''a lot of families need to view the remains for closure,'' but the bodies sometimes are not viewable. In that case, the Army tries to have someone other than family members take a look.

The only reason a soldier's casket would never be opened is if the body inside has been chemically contaminated or harbors a contagion, Lawrence said.

On Tuesday, Baddick with John Adams, her partner of 20 years, beside her poured out her anguish to state Representative Keith McCall, D-Carbon.

The couple plan to marry the day before Christmas.

McCall told Baddick he was appalled she could not see her son's body and that he would do whatever he could to find out what happened.

The family, including Andrew Baddick's father, Joseph, and his wife, Sheila, was in the capital to attend the passage of resolutions honoring Baddick and Firkal.

The Legislature passed both resolutions, standing and applauding after each was voted upon.

''Show me a hero, and I'll show you a tragedy,'' McCall told the legislators, quoting from author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Baddick, the Army says, hit his head and drowned as he tried to rescue a soldier whose vehicle went into a canal near Abu Ghraib Prison during a mortar attack. The soldier in the vehicle also died.

Officials said Baddick, an avid swimmer, plunged into the canal to try to rescue the man. And when it became clear the man had drowned, Baddick dove again to try to recover the man's body.

That's when he hit his head and drowned, authorities said.

Baddick's mother said she has yet to receive his dog tags and other effects.

Baddick graduated from jump school at Fort Benning, Georgia, in February 2001, served in Afghanistan and had recently re-enlisted. He arrived in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, about a month before he died.

''Sergeant Baddick was awarded the Bronze Star,'' McCall said on the House floor. ''No combat ribbon, no medal for bravery, nor, frankly, the recognition of the House, could ever replace his family's love for Sergeant Baddick.''

Firkal, 27, died while trying to rescue a boy who had become caught in a riptide.

Firkal, a volunteer firefighter, was buried with a firefighter's honors, his casket carried to St. Michael's Cemetery in Summit Hill atop a fire truck.

''Brian's death highlights the true spirit of helping others,'' McCall said.

Jane Firkal said she is coping with her grief with the help of her late husband's and her own family.

''I just take it one day at a time,'' she said.

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