Remembering Mabry Anders

Written by Devan Schwartz August 31, 2012 10:51 am

Online photo — Mabry Anders poses with his mother Genny Woydziak and his stepfather, Troy, in a family photo.

Mabry Anders poses with his mother
Genny Woydziak and his stepfather, Troy,
in a family photo posted online. 

 

 

 

The family of Mabry Anders, the 21-year-old Baker City soldier who died Aug. 27 in Afghanistan, has announced these events.

Monday:

• 9:30 a.m. — Mabry Anders’ body will arrive at the Baker Municipal Airport; an escort will follow down Campbell Street and on to Gray’s West & Co. Pioneer Chapel, 1500 Dewey Ave. The vehicle bearing Mabry's body will be preceded, by about 15 minutes, by a procession of Legion Riders. Participants are urged to stay for both processions.

Wednesday

• 10 a.m. — Funeral at St. Francis de Sales Cathedral, 2235 First St.

• After the funeral — Graveside service at Haines Cemetery, Haines Cemetery Lane/Muddy Creek Road, just west of Highway 30.

• After graveside service — Reception at the Baker Armory, 1640 Campbell St.

All events are open to the public. 

 

 

‘He was the man to make you smile if you needed it.’ 

By Devan Schwartz

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“We were 14 when we met,” Tineeka Kay Fletcher said about her fiance, Mabry Anders of Baker City — an Army specialist killed in Afghanistan.

Anders died at 7:35 a.m. Monday near Kala Gush in Laghman Province, northeast of Kabul.

“He’s been my best friend my whole life,” Fletcher said. “He could always make me laugh when I was down.”


The two attended high school together, but when he served in Afghanistan they grew even closer.

She said that one day he emailed her and told her how he felt, and she felt the same.

They planned to marry in December when Anders would return from Afghanistan; they planned to live in Carson City, Nev.

The last time she saw him in person, Fletcher said, was two years ago.

“I will miss you so much,” Fletcher wrote in a letter to the 21-year-old Anders which she gave to the Baker City Herald.

“You will always be my hero, friend, boyfriend and fiance. I will miss your sweet smile, your laugh and our long talks every night.

“You will always be in my heart. I know you will be my guardian angel, with me forever.”

Gail Lemberger, Baker High School counselor, remembered Anders as a fun-loving boy. 

“This kid had a great sense of humor,” she said. “And he was quite bright intellectually.”

And though Anders didn’t graduate from BHS, Lemberger said he had good friends at the school. Instead, he graduated from the Baker Alternative School at Haines in 2009.

Lemberger recalled that Anders was eager to enter the military.

“He already knew he wanted to be in the military, even as a sophomore,” she said. “He told me, ‘it will be good for me.’ ”

His grandmother, Ellen Woydziak, said Mabry joined their family at the age of 13 when his mother, Genny, married Ellen’s son, Troy.

The military notification of their son’s death was delivered to the couple at their home about noon Monday, Ellen Woydziak said.

Her son and daughter-in-law were flown to Delaware and are expected home today, she said.

“He really grew up in the service,” Ellen said of her grandson. “He became very responsible.”

She said Anders had planned to leave the military in November.

“It’s horrible, he was the only boy they had — they loved him very much,” she added.

Recalling her grandson’s skill as a card player, she laughed. “He could play cards and beat the socks off of you. We always told him he was cheating.”

Troy Woydziak spoke about his stepson from Dover, Del. 

“We’re really proud of him,” he said. “He was watching out for his buddies.”

Woydziak recounted conversations with Mabry’s commander and the lieutenant who was on the mission.

They told Woydziak that Mabry made the guys there laugh a lot. And when they held a ceremony for him and fellow slain soldier (Sgt. Christopher Birdwell, 25, of Windsor, Colo. ) it was standing room only.

“They told me they’d never seen so many people,” Woydziak said.

The commanding officers also described the fatal incident, which has received differing media reports.

“It sounds like their convoy hit an IED (improvised explosive device),” he said.

When Anders and Birdwell got out of the vehicle to inspect the damage, another vehicle reportedly rolled up; unprovoked, an Afghan National Army soldier opened fire on the two U.S. soldiers.

The New York Times had reported on Aug. 27 that “two American soldiers were shot and killed by a member of the Afghan Army in eastern Afghanistan on Monday when a dispute broke out during a joint American and Afghan patrol.”

An early statement released by the Department of Defense on Tuesday stated only that Anders was killed from “enemy, small arms fire.” 

Yet late Wednesday evening, a statement released by the Oregon Military Department (OMD) amended that: “(Anders) died of multiple wounds received from an Afghanistan National Army soldier.”

Then, a further-revised OMD statement indicated that Anders had in fact been killed “after the soldier’s convoy encountered an IED (roadside bomb); he dismounted to patrol the area for secondary devices. He was then engaged with small arms fire by an Afghanistan National Army member. He died of injuries.”

U.S. Army deputy public affairs officer Martin L. O’Donnell confirmed that the Afghan soldier was killed in return fire.

As the statements coalesce, reports of Anders’ death have appeared in news sources including the Oregonian, Portland KATU News, the Associated Press, the Military Times, Denver’s CBS television station, KVAL News of Eugene, and have made extensive laps on social media sites.  

Such insider incidents, so-called green-on-green killings, are on the rise.

Newsweek reported Monday that “members and civilian employees of Afghanistan’s security forces had killed no fewer than 40 coalition troops this year — at least 10 of the dead, all of them Americans, in the first three weeks of August alone.

“The count has already passed last year’s total of 35 dead, and it’s reached fully double the figure for all of 2010.”

This is an issue not lost on the troops themselves. Fletcher mentioned how her fiance had grown increasingly paranoid about such attacks; he’d told her about a deadly incident, during a similar patrol, that occurred weeks before his own death.

According to his fiance, Anders was especially concerned about former Taliban members being trained on the U.S. base — which he said could have led to information leaks facilitating attacks at vulnerable times and locations.

“When someone is killed by an ally, it’s especially hard,” said Doug Dean of Veterans Advocates of Ore-Ida from his Baker City office Thursday. “Mabry gave the ultimate sacrifice and our prayers go out to his family.”

According to icasulaties.org 1,932 U.S. troops have been killed to date in Afghanistan.

In remembrance, Genny and Troy released an official statement about their son’s death.

“We are extremely proud of our son and the service he has done for our country,” they wrote. “Mabry always gave everything his all and in the end he gave all he had. Mabry will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him. He is best known for his sense of humor, beaming smile, generosity and most of all friendship and love. We will miss his fearless spirit and love of life.”

Over the telephone, Troy Woydziak added that arrangements will be handled by Gray’s West & Co.; burial will be at the Haines Cemetery.

The Woydziaks own Baker Aircraft, the fixed-base operator at the Baker City Municipal Airport, where Mabry’s body will arrive.

Woydziak said they didn’t yet know the exact arrival date, because an official autopsy was still to be performed.

Yet for those who knew and loved Spc. Mabry Anders, he will live on in their memories. And, for the time being, in yellow ribbons.

If you walk down Main Street or through Geiser-Pollman Park you will notice yellow ribbons commemorating Anders’ life.

Headed up by Jacki Adams and her son, Brendan Ogan, many old friends were recruited to help.

“We were like brothers for a while,” said Josh Bruxton, 22, who was a year ahead of Anders at BHS.  “And he would never turn his back on his brothers.

“I remember how spontaneous he was — everyone knew Mabry,” Bruxton said.

Amy Feeley added, “He was the man to make you smile if you needed it.”

Chanae Hartmann recalled driving with Anders up in the mountains when his tires blew; she didn’t have any shoes so he gave her his.

Hartmann said, “Mabry told me, ‘You keep running. You keep running through life and you never stop.’ ”

The friends had assembled for refreshments at Adams’ store, The Sycamore Tree, which served as home base for a memorial display. Afterward, they headed out to tie more ribbons and to spread the word about Baker City’s fallen soldier.

Reporter Chris Collins contributed to this story.