Monday, November 08, 2010

Army Spc. Andrew L. Hutchins

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Andrew L. Hutchins, 20, of New Portland, Maine

Spc Hutchins was assigned to 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died Nov. 8, 2010 at Khost province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire.

Spc. Andrew L. Hutchins was a military policeman and member of the 101st Airborne Division, based out of Fort Campbell, Ky., according to a news release from Gov. John Baldacci's office.

Community members expressed shock when they learned of his death on Tuesday and recalled Hutchins, 20, as a leader who excelled academically and athletically at the North Anson high school.

Diane Starr, director of guidance at the school, described Hutchins as "one of the most awesome students we had." Chris Poulin, who had Hutchins in the Jobs for Maine's Graduates program at the high school, said, "I'm guessing some teachers work their whole career and never find a kid like that."

Hutchins is the second man from the small, rural community of New Portland to die in the Afghanistan war. Another Carrabec graduate also died during the Afghanistan invasion in 2001.

Gov. John Baldacci spoke with members of Hutchins' family on Tuesday and learned he was previously wounded. "His father told me that Spc. Hutchins was wounded earlier, but he wanted to return to Afghanistan to be with his buddies," Baldacci said. "Spc. Hutchins is a hero and deserves our gratitude."

"As Veterans' Day approaches, we are painfully reminded that our country remains at war and that our men and women in uniform are still called to duty for their country," Baldacci said. "Spc. Hutchins' death is a terrible tragedy for his family and all who knew him. We honor his sacrifice and his memory and will keep his wife and family in our prayers."

Baldacci is expected to order flags flown at half-staff on the day of Hutchins' funeral.

Starr, the guidance director, said Hutchins was an "excellent student" who joined the Army his senior year. Even though it wasn't required, his senior year he took two foreign language classes, honors English, and two advanced placement courses -- statistics and psychology. "He went over and above what our top academic students do, just because he loved to learn," she said.

His classmates chose him as "most artistic" and "class brains" his senior year. His yearbook quote was: "Pride is no sin. Always have pride."

He participated in the theater program at Carrabec and played basketball. In addition to being a Jobs for Maine's Graduates officer, he helped organize the senior yearbook and participated in both the school's business league and weight-lifting program.

Hutchins "pushed himself ... to go above and beyond. He was just so unassuming," according to Poulin, who was a specialist with Jobs for Maine's Graduates when Hutchins was a student. He was also assistant coach for the Willpower Weightlifting program, which began at 5:30 a.m. before classes.

Poulin said Hutchins was "a leader in our school in driving different initiatives," including a blood drive and raising money to buy Christmas presents for elementary school students.

He recalled a senior class fundraiser when Hutchins and his classmates parked cars at the New Portland fair. They took shifts, so students could attend the fair and eat. Hutchins noticed that one student, who didn't have any money, refused to take breaks to get food.

So, "without making a big scene," Poulin said, Hutchins bought extra food and gave it to Poulin to give to the student. "He didn't want the kid to know it came from him," he said. "I've been in education for 13 or 14 years, and you just don't run across kids like that every day."

Mike Golden is an alternative education teacher in the district and was Hutchins' varsity basketball coach his junior year, when he played guard. He described Hutchins as "always there for his teammates."

"Even when things were down on the basketball court, if he smiled, it was hard not to smile back," he said. "It's tough. It's sad. He was a really good kid. Everybody says that, but he really was one of those great kids."

Starr said Tuesday afternoon that teachers and staff were just learning of his death, "so the atmosphere is just shocked." Counselors will be available today for students and teachers.

Democratic Congressman Mike Michaud said Tuesday he was "deeply saddened" to hear of Hutchins' death. "Words cannot do justice to the honor with which Andrew served his country and the sadness and loss his family now feels," he said.

Republican U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe said, "Hutchins shouldered the heaviest of responsibilities, and the magnitude and height of my admiration and respect for him is limitless ... He gave his life defending our nation and every American owes him a debt of immeasurable gratitude that we can never repay and must never forget."

Hutchins' mother lives in Waltham MA, and his father lives in Leeds ME. His wife plans to stay with her mother, who lives in Solon, until Hutchins' funeral, according to the governor's office. Hutchins and his wife are expecting their first child, according to Pete Rogers of the state Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management. The release did not name the family members, some of whom declined an interview Tuesday.

Army Spc. Andrew L. Hutchins was killed in action on 11/08/10.

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