Sunday, June 10, 2007

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

Army Sgt. Andrew Higgins, the Hayward soldier who died Tuesday while fighting in Iraq, came from a long line of Americans.

The first descendant of his family landed in New England in 1693, said his father, Jerry Higgins of Hayward.

But news of his death this week took even more of a toll on his family because he was supposed to be the next in line to carry on the family name. Now that never will happen.

"He was the only child of an only child of an only child," Jerry Higgins said of the three generations of Higginses who were only sons.

Andrew Higgins, 28, died in Baqubah of wounds suffered from small-arms fire while his Ranger unit battled enemy insurgents, the Department of Defense reported. He was in the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis, Wash. Higgins was supposed to return home this month, but his unit's tour of duty was extended.

Higgins' family initially disagreed with his decision to join the military, but they later changed their minds as they saw his passion for service grow.

With his parents' permission, he took Army basic training during the summer between his junior and senior years at Kennedy High School in Fremont.

He spent two years in the Army Reserve after graduating from high school, then signed up for the regular Army, eventually joining the elite Ranger corps. He was married in 2001.

"He was one of these perfect kids," said Arnie Becker, a longtime friend of the family who had known Higgins since birth. "He did everything right except for getting into college, which was what his parents had hoped for."
When he finished his military service, Higgins had planned to go back to school and study fish and habitat conservation.

What his family remembers most about him is his witty sense of humor and his can-do spirit.

"He's the reason why I finished chemistry in junior college," said his wife Rachel, a Fremont resident, "because he told me, 'Don't ever quit, even when it's hard.'"

"He was a good man," his mother, Cheryl, added. "If he gave you his word, he kept it."

Although he was starting to become frustrated with the war, family and friends said, he was very patriotic and made his family proud.

"He's somebody who truly believed in being in the military and supporting America," Becker said.

Becker said Higgins fully supported the invasion of Iraq at the beginning of the war. But as time went on, he became deeply concerned that the war "was only fomenting the insurgency and creating needless deaths of both Americans and Iraqis," Becker said Higgins told family and friends.

Still, he never lost confidence in the country's reason for being in Iraq and never lost allegiance to the Army and his fellow soldiers, Becker said.

He was a fire support specialist with awards and decorations including two Army Good Conduct Medals, a National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terror Service Medal, and the Combat Action Badge.

Higgins was deployed to Afghanistan with the first contingent of troops sent to fight the Taliban. He was on his second deployment to Iraq when he was killed.

From the Daily Review