Living Memorial For Andre Anderson

Submitter’s Name: Ivonn-Ed Sanchez
The Service Member’s Name: Andre Anderson
Branch of Service: Army
Rank: Sergeant First Class / SFC
Military Job: 42A (Human Resources)
Hometown for Service Member: 

Submitted by Navarro Student Ivonn-Ed Sanchez

Andre Anderson was born August 5, 1975 and he is the son of high school sweethearts. His mother is the youngest girl of thirteen children and his father is one of fifteen children. “That’s how they did it back then,” he remarked jokingly. Andre grew up in Trinidad, Texas, a very small town in Henderson County. He attended Trinidad ISD and his graduating class had a whopping number of six students. He played basketball and football, but loved basketball. He went on and attended Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, just twenty-five miles away from his hometown.

When Andre was 20 years old, he decided to do something different. He said, “I had a three year old son and I didn’t see a point of trying to pursue the NFL/NBA dream.” He wanted to be able to do provide for his son. His family also told him that there was nothing left for him in Trinidad and he needed to experience other things. He decided to join the military. His first choice was the Marines, but sports made him join the army. He wanted to be able to still play ball. “It was my second choice, but it was better.”

Andre’s Basic Training took place in Foresthill, Oklahoma. “It was interesting.” He had never seen 30 grown men cry simultaneously. When they arrived they had ‘reception.’ He explained that, for a week, paper work was filled out and haircuts were given. Training actually started when he “crossed the tracks.” Andre and all of the men were put in cattle cars, geared up and packed. As soon as they stepped off they were “welcomed” with yelling. “It was very chaotic.” They all had the same color duffle bags, unsurprisingly many were mixed up and frantically trying to find their bag again. Despite the chaotic environment it was not hard to miss their senior Drill Sergeant, who was a professional weight lifter, calling out names for platoons.

In the bay, the bunks were laid out neatly and they all lined up around them. Sergeant Hayes and Dawson put them through hell for an hour and a half. They did push ups, sit ups, everything. They all had a canteen of water and were expected to drink it as they worked out. One guy, who they called ‘Big Country,’ drank too much water and needed to vomit. Andre emphasized that the floor was so clean that you could see your own reflection, so when one of the Sergeants caught wind that Big Country was going to vomit, he wasn’t having any of it. Andre remembered his Sergeants exact words: “A drop better not hit my floor…you better throw up in your shirt before you throw up on my floor.” After the hour and a half of hell, they were silent as they went to bed. “All you could hear was crying from their bunks.” Andre said he and his friends still talk about it to this day. After 8 weeks of training, 36 out of the original 42 graduated.

Basic Training taught Andre about building togetherness. “You are a unit. It gets everybody, you hold each other accountable. Basic training teaches you that.” It also taught him to act under stress or sleep deprivation. He got through it by embracing it as it came to him. “I was in shape physically, so that didn’t matter. Mentally? I told myself that this person doesn’t know me, so I could block it out.” The most important factor to all of it: your team.

Andre was in Kansas when 9/11 happened. He was getting ready to go to the National Training Center (NTC) in California for training. They were supposed to be flying that day, but the Commander called everyone to the gym. They were told the sobering news.  Andre said that there were tears and no one wanted to leave the room. “We just watched the whole day, over and over again.” Their initial reason for going to NTC was to train, then it was to get certified. He said that many of those who joined the military did it for school, now it was to actually fight.

He went to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Before going to Iraq, he went to Kuwait. He said it stunk and it was very hot. They went there to get acclimated to the heat and dust. They stayed there for about 10 days and were out 10 hours a day. When they arrived in Balad, Iraq, he said there was trash everywhere. The smell of burning trash filled the air. The kids were playing in the water that they would have to later drink/bathe in. Andre said there weren’t a lot of luxuries: burn pits were bathrooms. They stayed in a location called the ‘Pond Palace’ it was actually Saddam Hussein’s son’s brothel. He described the balconies on the inside where the ladies walked out.

His job was the Senior Human Resource Sergeant for the unit. He loved taking care of the soldiers. He helped with awards and as it was an infantry unit, Andre did patrols. The most difficult part of his job was planning memorial services. It was hard for him to go to hospitals and collect the fallen service member’s belongings. They lost 35 soldiers his first deployment. Many of them were young. “They would be lying to you if they said you were the same person after what you experienced, no matter what job you did.”

Every day they heard mortar rounds. If a day went by that a mortar round didn’t go in their area, something was wrong. One day, when he went to DFAC (Dining Facility), he and his friends didn’t sit in the ESPN area: a place that they sat in every morning.  All of the sudden, a round came through the roof and hit the table in the ESPN sports room. It ended up being a dud. “Wow. We did not sit there that morning.”

During his career, he had great relationships with everyone. “I haven’t had bad leadership.” He still gets phone calls and texts. The 172nd Stryker Brigade have their own Facebook page. They all still wear their unit patch on their right arm.  It indicates that is the unit you served in a combat zone with.  He feels brotherhood with his unit. “You skip “the like” and go straight to “the love” for your unit members.” They all has his back and he had theirs.

Andre advised me to “Live one rank below what you are.” He said to save money to be able to retire at a young age. Being financially smart is a very important piece of advice his own Sergeant gave him. The military gave him many benefits of which he took advantage. “Take advantage when life gives you opportunity.”

After he retires, Andre plans on opening a basketball academy. “I want to teach these kids how to play.”