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'He carried a monster inside of him' Andrew Velez committed suicide in Afghanistan
Lubbock Avalance-Journal ^ | August 4, 2006 | Jason Womack

Posted on 08/04/2006 7:19:53 AM PDT by CedarDave

War killed Andrew Velez from the inside out.

It took his brother, strained his marriage and fractured his psyche.

"He carried a monster inside of him," said Roy Velez, Andrew's father. He took that monster to Afghanistan and on July 25 it consumed him.

According to Army documents provided by his family, Andrew was found inside an office building that morning with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

His rifle, the same weapon carried by his brother, lay nearby.

The Army is investigating the circumstances surrounding his death and who the 22-year-old Army specialist may have called before his death. A telephone near his body was left off the hook.

A. Velez "Andrew was very strong willed," said Roy Velez, who wonders if his son should have returned to combat after an incident in Lubbock last year. "But all this pressure was put upon him."

Roy has seen the toll the war had taken on his son and his family. But he never forgot the bond his sons shared.

He sorts through dozens of pictures, stopping when he sees Andrew's brother, Freddy, whose arm is bent at the elbow. His first two fingers are extended.

Roy said the fingers are for Andrew. He mimics the gesture.

"One is for Andrew and one is for Fred," he said, pointing at each finger. "Two brothers forever."

His parents said that Andrew, who never recovered from losing Fred, was determined to return to battle to finish the job his brother had started.

Andrew's older brother, Cpl. Jose "Freddy" Velez, 23, was killed in 2004 while fighting in Iraq.

Freddy died a hero by facilitating the retreat of his fellow soldiers from an enemy strong point. The soldiers found safety behind the blanket of gunfire he provided. When Freddy ran out of ammunition, he was shot and killed.

The Army awarded Freddy two Purple hearts, a Bronze Star and Silver Star for his bravery. The Army promoted him to corporal following his death.

Andrew never needed to see those medals.

He told his high school English teacher, Sarah Harris, during Freddy's funeral that he didn't need anyone to praise his brother.

"You don't have to tell me how great my brother was. I know how great he was. I lived with him," she recalled Andrew saying.

The brothers played football together at Estacado High School, and they both entered the service. They achieved the same rank. They carried the same weapon.

"One brother after another," his father said. "There are so many coincidences."

Andrew accompanied Freddy's body back from the war. He was with Freddy when his body left the Middle East, when Freddy reached the U.S. and when he arrived home in Lubbock.

He escorted his brother from plane to plane. After the funeral, Andrew was determined to return to battle. He even re-enlisted in the Army.

But Roy and Carmen Velez questioned whether Andrew should return to combat after they said police discovered him in an East Lubbock alley in December 2005.

Andrew was screaming at soldiers who were not there, grasping an invisible weapon in his hands, Roy said.

"Get down! Get down!" he yelled at his father. "I'm not going to die!"

He was never arrested, but Roy said a copy of the police report followed his son back to Fort Irwin and that he had other episodes on base and underwent a psychological evaluation.

Roy said his son was too determined to go back to war, that he would return to battle.

"He played the game," Roy said. "He told me several times that he played the game."

The Army deployed Andrew to Afghanistan in March. His wife and three young children stayed behind in Lubbock.

Andrew's parents said the pair had marital problems and that he loved his wife and children.

Vernonica Velez would not comment. She has arranged for Andrew to be buried at 10 a.m. next to his brother at Resthaven Memorial Park.

He will receive full military honors.

Roy said he considers his son a casualty of war, a war his family still supports.

He still wonders what sent Andrew over the edge.

"What broke the camel's back?" he asked. "What was it?"

To comment on this story:

jason.womack@lubbockonline.com 766-8707

brian.williams@lubbockonline.com 766-8717


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; US: Texas
KEYWORDS: fallen; oef; suicide; velez
The memorial service was held last night and I attended. That story and my comments can be found here:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1677678/posts

1 posted on 08/04/2006 7:19:54 AM PDT by CedarDave
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To: CedarDave

2 posted on 08/04/2006 7:20:49 AM PDT by CedarDave (French report: Landis fails drug test. But, outside of France, men naturally produce testosterone)
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To: CedarDave
Andrew was screaming at soldiers who were not there, grasping an invisible weapon in his hands, Roy said.

I can't believe his family and the army sent him back. It's a miracle he didn't take out a few of ours with him.

3 posted on 08/04/2006 7:33:15 AM PDT by mtbopfuyn (I think the border is kind of an artificial barrier - San Antonio councilwoman Patti Radle)
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To: CedarDave

Thanks for the post. Our prayers for all the Velez family, especially his wife, children and parents.


4 posted on 08/04/2006 7:34:02 AM PDT by moonman (`)
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To: mtbopfuyn

God rest his soul.


5 posted on 08/04/2006 7:35:35 AM PDT by flynmudd (Proud Navy Mom to OSSR Richard T. Blalock-USS Ramage)
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To: CedarDave

Thank you for attending the funeral and for your own service to our country. May the LORD bring peace and comfort to this family.


6 posted on 08/04/2006 7:58:27 AM PDT by DrewsDad
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To: CedarDave
"What broke the camel's back?" he asked. "What was it?"

Not enough time or help in dealing with his beloved brother's death?

7 posted on 08/04/2006 8:36:44 AM PDT by maine-iac7 ("...but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." Lincoln)
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To: CedarDave; Kathy in Alaska; 68-69TonkinGulfYatchClub; tomkow6; SouthernHawk; MoJo2001; HiJinx; ...

Canteen ping


8 posted on 08/04/2006 8:38:52 AM PDT by Fawnn (Canteen wOOhOO Consultant and CookingWithPam.com person - Faith makes things possible, not easy.)
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To: CedarDave
The story of why the Lubbock newspaper did NOT print the circumstances surrounding his death until after the community had a chance to honor this soldier:

Velez story: What happens when sensitive story gets more sensitive

9 posted on 08/04/2006 8:48:40 AM PDT by CedarDave (French report: Landis fails drug test. But, outside of France, men naturally produce testosterone)
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To: CedarDave

Sounds like the monster was untreated PTSD combined with ongoing grieving for his brother's death. If the Army did a psych eval and sent him back into a war zone, they had to have believed he was OK on some level.

Bless his heart - and soul. He was trying to live up to the expectations of others and felt inside that he had failed. I'm glad that he got full military honors, as you observed. RIP, Velez Brothers.


10 posted on 08/04/2006 8:50:22 AM PDT by Rte66
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To: Blue Jays
Here is to hope that Andrew Velez is granted eternal rest and peace from a grateful nation.
11 posted on 08/04/2006 8:56:23 AM PDT by Blue Jays (Rock Hard, Ride Free)
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To: CedarDave

That was very sensitive of the L A/J to do that. The NY Slimes would have made the suicide a banner headline...never mind the family!


12 posted on 08/04/2006 9:04:14 AM PDT by LUV W ("I want our troops to understand that not only does the country support them, but--we'll win! GWB)
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To: Rte66
His father is a very strong person, proud in a non-arrogant way, very loving. But I wonder if at some level young Andrew felt he couldn't measure up to either his brother who died heroically or his father's expectations, real or imaginary.
13 posted on 08/04/2006 9:07:18 AM PDT by CedarDave (French report: Landis fails drug test. But, outside of France, men naturally produce testosterone)
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To: CedarDave; Fawnn; All

REST IN PEACE
ANDREW VALEZ
JOSE (FREDDIE) VALEZ
BRAVE SOLDIERS
YOU ARE MY HEROES


14 posted on 08/04/2006 9:08:34 AM PDT by LUV W ("I want our troops to understand that not only does the country support them, but--we'll win! GWB)
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To: All

Sorry I misspelled their last name! =\


15 posted on 08/04/2006 9:14:09 AM PDT by LUV W ("I want our troops to understand that not only does the country support them, but--we'll win! GWB)
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To: LUV W

That is a touching and beautiful tribute.


16 posted on 08/04/2006 3:21:38 PM PDT by BlueAngel
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To: BlueAngel

Thank you.


17 posted on 08/04/2006 3:32:48 PM PDT by LUV W ("I want our troops to understand that not only does the country support them, but--we'll win! GWB)
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To: CedarDave

Those were exactly my feelings, too, as I was preparing myself earlier in the week for the possibility of this revelation.

Look at all the honors that had been bestowed on his brother posthumously, even a scholarship fund. I don't know what his assignment was in Afghanistan, but it might have been less than challenging -- the guys may have had a lot of time to sit and think, which leads to all kinds of conjuring when on the other side of the globe from loved ones. God rest his soul.


18 posted on 08/04/2006 5:13:40 PM PDT by Rte66
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