Skip to comments.'He carried a monster inside of him' Andrew Velez committed suicide in Afghanistan
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:
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.
Thanks for the post. Our prayers for all the Velez family, especially his wife, children and parents.
God rest his soul.
Thank you for attending the funeral and for your own service to our country. May the LORD bring peace and comfort to this family.
Not enough time or help in dealing with his beloved brother's death?
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.
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!
Sorry I misspelled their last name! =\
That is a touching and beautiful tribute.
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.