Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Andrew Higgins laid to rest

FREMONT - Sgt. Andrew Higgins was remembered Wednesday as a courageous soldier with a sharp wit and a kind heart.

The Johnny Cash song "Ring of Fire" played softly as more than 100 people filed into a Fremont chapel to pay respect to Higgins, a 28-year-old graduate of Kennedy High School who was killed last week while serving in Iraq.

"Let's make no mistake about it, we are in the presence of a hero," said Army Chaplain Saul Castillo. "Not for what he did on the battlefield, but for what kind of person he was."

Higgins' wife Rachel, a Fremont resident, fought tears as she read a letter she had written to her husband. "I love you because you're a kind, affectionate man who makes me feel special," she said.

Higgins had served a tour of duty in Afghanistan and was in his second tour in Iraq as part of an elite Stryker Brigade. He died June 5 in Baqubah of wounds suffered from small-arms fire while his unit battled enemy insurgents, the Defense Department reported.

In Iraq, Higgins was a forward observer, responsible for directing artillery fire and air support onto enemy targets. Capt. Chris Franco said Higgins sacrificed much of his time off to serve the same role in his platoon when it had a sub-par forward observer.

"He was always helping me out," Franco said. "He loved his job. He loved the military and he loved his fellow soldiers."

During the funeral services, Higgins was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Army Commendation Medal.

Higgins was born and raised in Hayward, but graduated from Kennedy High, where his mother taught. He loved fishing and playing with his two dachshunds, who were featured prominently in photographs of Higgins displayed in the chapel.

In a short speech, Higgins' mother, Cheryl Higgins, recalled one of their many journeys down Interstate 880 going to and from school.

In the middle of one traffic jam, Higgins startled his mother by asking, "Mom, who's God?" Cheryl Higgins recalled.

Not wanting to get too spiritual on the Nimitz, she held her son's hand, but didn't say much, she said. "He's now getting the rest of the answer in person."

From the San Jose Mercury News

Related Link:
Andrews J. Higgins dies 'of wounds suffered when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire'