The day was hot and cloudless. Some of those waiting to welcome and honor SSGT Andrew Harvell home for the last time had arrived hours earlier.
Some turned faces to a cool wind off the ocean.
No one complained.
The crowd along the flight line, made up of dozens of members of the Patriot Guard Riders and members of the surrounding community, watched as the angel flight touched down and taxied to a stop directly in front of the control tower for the Los Angeles Army Air Field at Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base. Numerous large American flags were held proudly.
Also in formation were members of local law enforcement agencies — Los Alamitos and Cypress and Santa Ana Police, and Orange County Sheriff’s deputies. At the east end of the formation were representatives from the Orange County Fire Authority in front of trucks and a huge American flag.
An Air Force color guard stood by.
Six Air Force pall bearers waited near a hearse, along with SSGT Harvell’s family.
SSGT Harvell’s brother, SSgt. Sean Harvell, accompanied the body on its final flight.
None of the family members spoke directly to the media. However, a spokesperson provided two statements.
The first, from SSGT Harvell’s mother, repeated a line from a children’s book that had become a family byword: “I’ll like you forever, I’ll love you for always.”
The second, from SSGT Harvell’s widow, Krista, said simply that he left a legacy in his love of country, career and his two young sons, Hunter, 3, and Ethan, 5 months.
The door on the near side of the angel flight opened. Two crew members spent several minutes setting up a bier to receive the coffin.
The entire assembly snapped to attention as the coffin emerged.
An Air Force officer escorted family members across the empty tarmac.
After an interval, the Air Force pall bearers marched over, hefted the coffin and began the slow sad march to the hearse, trailed by the family members.
The officer in charge hailed SSGT Harvell as a hero, loud enough to be heard by members of the media kept well away on the west end of the formation. He recited the Twenty-Third Psalm as the pall bearers marched, ending as they carefully slid the coffin into the hearse.
Those assembled were dismissed.
The hearse was escorted off the base by dozens of Patriot Guard Riders and members of local law enforcement.
SSGT Harvell will be buried with military honors on Saturday, September 10, at Los Angeles National Cemetery, 950 Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.
At the request of Councilwoman Gerri Graham-Mejia, Los Alamitos Mayor Kenneth Stephens closed Monday night’s regular meeting of the Los Alamitos City Council in honor of SSGT Harvell.
The coffin of SSGT Harvell emerges from the angel flight.
More photos of the hero mission for SSGT Harvell are available at OC Breeze’s Flickr photo stream.
All photos by C.E.H. Wiedel.
Circumstances of death
SSGT Andrew Harvell was among 30 people killed when their Chinook helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by Taliban insurgents as the troops were being transported to support an ongoing battle in eastern Wardak province, near the capital city of Kabul, Afghanistan.
SSGT Harvell was part of a team that had just helped to rescue a unit of Army Rangers.
As a combat controller, SSGT Harvell coordinated air support with troops on the ground in hostile situations.
SSGT Harvell was based at Fort Bragg’s Pope Field, assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, but his hometown was Long Beach.
Two days later, U.S. Air Force F-16s attacked and destroyed those responsible for downing the helicopter.
Statement by Long Beach mayor
Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster released the following statement:
Staff Sergeant Andrew W. Harvell from Long Beach was among the servicemen who died on August 6, 2011 in Afghanistan.
In remembrance of fallen Staff Sergeant Harvell, City facilities that are open today are authorized to fly the American flag at half staff.
“My deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of Staff Sergeant Andrew W. Harvell. On behalf of the City of Long Beach, we are sending our thoughts and prayers to them during this time of great sadness,” said Mayor Bob Foster.
- RIP TSgt John W. Brown, SSgt Andrew W. Harvell, TSgt Daniel L. Zerbe (waronterrornews.typepad.com)