LETTERKENNY ARMY DEPOT, Chambersburg, Pa.--A new route clearance vehicle welding positioner at Letterkenny Army Depot was dedicated to the memory of Sgt. Andrew H. McConnell, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash. in a ceremony at the maintenance facility on Nov. 28.
To the crowd of local officials, depot employees, friends and family, depot commander Col. Victor S. Hagan acknowledged that McConnell was a hero, a young man willing to devote his life to service to country.
"May we use this time to recognize his honorable and faithful service and devotion to country by making the ultimate sacrifice in defense of liberty and the cause of freedom," Hagan said.
McConnell enlisted in the Army in October 2005. During his assignment to Fort Lewis he met and married his wife Sarah in December 2008. On his first deployment, in southern Afghanistan, McConnell was mortally wounded after his vehicle was attacked by enemy forces with an improvised explosive device on Sept. 14, 2009.
Retired Master Sgt. Victor Kissoon battled with emotions as he remembered the time he spent coaching McConnell on the soccer field and the many memories they shared, up to the very last one. McConnell was more than just another soccer player or friend to Kissoon; he was family.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey French became McConnell's batallion commander shortly before their unit deployed. Referring to him as "Mac," he shared how the young Soldier instantly reached out, accepted him as the new commander, and took him under his wing.
"He took life's setbacks --and we had plenty in Afghanistan- and learned from them, held others up if they began to listen to their darker angels, and always reached out to those in need," French said. "He always put others before himself. The epitome of a truly selfless Soldier and it's an honor to stand here today and share in this remembrance of a true American hero."
McConnell's father, Col. Scott McConnell moved from laughing about his son's antics to solemnly expressing how humbled and proud they are at the stories they hear.
"[Andrew] would likely tell us he died doing what he loved," McConnell said. "The dedication is not necessary, but it is fitting because it is an opportunity to recognize a Soldier's life and sacrifice, the great team that stands behind the Soldiers and faith they have in the equipment."
The ceremony also served as a reminder to the Letterkenny workforce that the Soldiers trust and rely on them to be prepared with the best.
The McConnell Positioner will perform work on route clearance vehicles, which are equipped to detect, analyze and dispose of any explosively formed penetrator or improvised explosive device and will protect Soldiers from similar dangers that tragically took the life of McConnell. It will be a vital piece of equipment as it will allow the route clearance vehicle workforce to substantially reduce process cycle times and return equipment more efficiently into the hands of the Soldiers. Welding can be conducted in position as opposed to in overhead or vertical positions and produce a greater quality by not fighting the effects of gravity on the molten weld.
Hagan, route clearance vehicle division chief, Gary Rosenberry along with McConnell's father and mother Kathy unveiled the plaque reading, "We are proud to dedicate the McConnell Positioner in memory of Sgt. Andrew H. McConnell, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, for his honorable service and for making the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of liberty and the cause of freedom."
McConnell's awards and commendations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart Medal, the Army Achievement Medal (four awards), Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Expert Infantryman Badge and Air Assault Badge.
In addition to his parents, McConnell is survived by his wife Sarah; daughter Evelyn; and sisters Ashlee, Amanda, Alecia, Abbey and Amelia.
"It's important for all of us to remember you for what you were and remain today, the difference you made while you graced us with your presence and the legacy you left behind," French said.
The depot is the center of industrial and technical excellence and the Army's depot source of repair for the route clearance vehicle program.