Sunday, August 08, 2010

Army Sgt. Andrew C. Nicol

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Andrew C. Nicol, 23, of Kensington, N.H.

Sgt. Nicol was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.; died Aug. 8, 2010 at Zhari Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Pfc. Bradley D. Rappuhn.

KENSINGTON, NH – Army Sgt. Andrew Nicol was respected by his peers, whether it was on a wrestling mat as a high school athlete trying to beat his opponent, or on the battlefield as a soldier fighting for his country.

Family and friends are now remembering Nicol as a hero after the Army Ranger was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan Sunday morning.

The 23-year-old serving with the 3rd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment out of Fort Benning, Ga., grew up in Kensington and was a 2006 graduate of Exeter High School. His death came just a couple of weeks before he was expected to return home.

He had served five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded a Medal of Valor in 2008, according to The Associated Press. While Sgt. Nicol was living in the Fort Benning area during his time in the military, his roots were in Kensington, NH.

His parents, Roland and Patricia, still live in town, where the flag outside the town hall was lowered to half-staff in honor of their son.

Before joining the military, Nicol left his mark on Exeter High, where he competed on the wrestling team for all four years and was elected team captain as a senior.

"He will always be remembered for his work ethic in the room and his willingness to put himself out there for the team," said former head coach Bob Brown of Brentwood.

When he would return home from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Nicol would often stop by Exeter High to chat with Brown. The last time Brown saw him was about a year ago.

While Nicol wasn't able to share many details about his missions, he was proud of his work and talked about the progress that the military had made.

"He was equally as confident in what he was doing there as he was on the mat with me," Brown said. "Once you've wrestled, everything else is easy."

Brown recalled times during wrestling matches when Nicol was behind, but somehow managed to pull off a comeback with just seconds on the clock.

"It was with that confidence in himself and also the ability to keep things in perspective that I always appreciated about him," Brown said. "He was never somebody that was intimidated by reputable opponents. He was the underdog in a lot of matches, but he was always going out there and giving it everything he had."

Bob Brown was Nicol's wrestling coach at Exeter High School for four years. Brown said it was a privilege to know Nicol, who was captain of the team his senior year.

“The news of his passing was very tragic, and it's hard to imagine Andrew's life cut so short,” Brown said. “He will forever be remembered by me and, I'm sure, the guys on the team.”

Brown recounted a particularly memorable occasion at the 2005 Merrimack Hall of Fame alumni tournament, in which Nicol was competing.

Up to that point in the season, Brown said, Nicol was disappointed with his results, but he was determined to excel at the tournament.

After advancing to the semifinals, Nicol was trailing his match by a wide margin in points, and there were “literally seconds on the clock when he reached back and caught this kid and threw him on his back and pinned him and just got up without any real celebration, just as though it was supposed to happen that way.”

“He shook the kid's hand and jogged by me and gave a smile,” Brown said. He “just kind of whispered on his way, ‘I told you this would be a big day.'

“He always managed to bring a smile to the guys on the team,” Brown said. “He was able to lighten the mood when it was appropriate, and he would often imitate Kramer from ‘Seinfeld' with both his mannerisms and quick gestures. That certainly is something that I'll always remember about him.”

Roy Morrisette of Exeter also remembered coaching Nicol in high school. "He was a good kid," he said.

The death hit close to home for the Kensington neighbors who know the Nicol family.

Other friends and family were devastated by Nicol's sudden death. Many posted messages on his Facebook page.

At 8:52 p.m. Sunday, Faith Burgoyne posted, “You will always be remembered.”
Jenna Conner wrote, “Rest in peace, Andrew.”

Kyle McMaster wrote, “Don't even know what to say at a time like this. Not much one can say. Sad day for all of us.”

Nicol's brother, Roland LeFox Nicol of Boston, left this message on Facebook: “Feeling a bit shattered but confident, knowing heroes do exist. Thank you for all your beautiful words.”

"It's something you think happens to someone else in some other place. It's tough to process at this point," said neighbor Dewey Watkins.

Watkins spoke to Nicol's father Monday morning before he headed to Delaware to retrieve his son's casket.

Meanwhile, Gov. John Lynch offered his condolences to the family in a statement Monday afternoon.

"My thoughts and prayers, and those of my wife Susan, are with the family of Sgt. Andrew Nicol. ... He served his nation with dignity, courage and honor, and was a decorated hero who sacrificed protecting all of us. On behalf of the citizens of New Hampshire, our deepest sympathies go out to the entire Nicol family," Lynch said.

Army Sgt. Andrew C. Nicol was killed in action on 8/8/10.


Anonymous said...

My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Andrew...He obviously was an inspireation to his peers and respected by all that knew him..We thank him for our Freedom..

Anonymous said...

As a Friend of Andrew I know he is in a better place... God Bless America