Sunday, October 25, 2009

Army Spc. Brandon K. Steffey

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Brandon K. Steffey, 23, of Sault Sainte Marie, Mich.

Spc. Steffey was assigned to the 178th Military Police Detachment, 89th Military Police Brigade, III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas; died Oct. 25, 2009 in Laghman province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.

CARLSBAD — Former Carlsbad resident Andrea (Kurinski) Steffey's husband was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan Sunday.

Army Specialist Brandon Steffey, 23, was a canine tracker handler for Forward Operating Base Fenty Kennel in the Laghman Province of Afghanistan. He was a native of Sault St. Marie, Mich., and based out of Fort Hood, Texas. He joined the Army in 2006, spending time as a K-9 handler in Afghanistan and a gunner in Iraq.

"While other dogs found bombs, his dog Maci would track the scent of the terrorist," said Geraldine Smith, Andrea Steffey's grandmother. "They haven't been officially told if Maci died with Brandon, but they're sure he did since they were never separated."

"He loved that dog and said it had become his best friend," she added, noting that the dog was leased to him, not the Army.

"The last time Andrea talked with him was Saturday, the day before he was killed. He told her he was going out on a mission," said Smith.

Smith was listening to CNN when a reporter told of two soldiers who had been killed, one by a roadside bomb and another in a fire fight. She heard of Brandon's death later that day from her daughter.

"Andrea heard the door bell ring on Sunday and looked out and saw an Army official and the chaplain," Smith said. "She ran upstairs to her mother saying, 'I can't do this - I can't do this.'

"She knew and didn't want to hear it," she added.

Andrea was born and raised in Carlsbad. She is the daughter of David Kurinski and Crystal Gilg. She went to live with her mother in San Antonio to go to school while Brandon was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The couple have an 18-month-old daughter, Abigail.

In an interview on Oct. 18, a week before his death, Brandon talked about Maci and other dogs that help find militants who build, place and detonate IEDs (improvised explosive devices). The interview took place in Laghman Province, and the story was written by Spc. Derek L. Kuhn.

"During my last deployment in Iraq, I couldn't do my job," Steffey said to the reporter. "I was a gunner, but here I'm doing my job. I like being able to get the bad guys with my dog. They (the dogs) are like soldiers. They risk their lives just like us. Their lives are in our hands and that is why we look out for them.

"Dealing with a dog, teaching a dog and watching him execute his job is very rewarding. I spend a lot of time with my dog and he is my best friend. We're a team," Steffey told the reporter.

The Army flew Andrea to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to meet the plane carrying Brandon and others who were killed in the line of duty. He will be buried in Sault St. Marie some time next week. There will also be a memorial service held at a later date at Ft. Hood, explained Smith.

"No one was with her when he was brought off the plane at Dover," Smith said.

She last saw Brandon in May before he left to go to Iraq in June.

"He was a fun loving young man and loved to make people laugh," Smith said. "He adored his wife and his little girl Abby."

"Every time Abby sees a cell phone she picks it up and says, 'Hello, Daddy,'" she added.

Smith was a military wife, and when she thinks of Brandon and other fallen soldiers, she believes they need to televise every one of the soldiers' bodies being taken off the planes.

"The public needs to know how many we lose every day," Smith said.

"Instead of flowers we decided we're going to buy Brandon a star online so Andrea can tell Abby - there's your daddy's star," she said.

Army Spc. Brandon K. Steffey was killed in action on 10/25/09.

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