Flags lowered to half-staff for Anders

by nathan oster

By order of Gov. Matt Mead, the U.S. and State of Wyoming flags around the state were flown at half-staff on Wednesday, Sept. 5 in honor of Army Specialist Mabry James Anders, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on Aug. 27.

Mabry, the son of Gretchen and Dan Anders of Shell and Troy and Gen Woydziak of Baker City, Ore., was laid to rest Wednesday in Baker City.  His body arrived in Baker City on Monday via aircraft — and with a military guardian, according to Mike Laird, who is the casualty assistance officer and with the Anders family in Oregon.

In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Laird said the people of Baker City had been “amazing” in their show of support for the Anders family, noting that there was a lineup of local emergency vehicles stretching “three miles long” waiting to lead the family and Mabry’s body from the airport to the funeral home.

“It had to be every single emergency vehicle in this town,” Laird said.  “This town (of about 10,000 people) is absolutely amazing.”

The funeral services were scheduled for Wednesday night and the family is expected to arrive back in south Big Horn County sometime on Thursday. In addition to being survived by his parents, Mabry is the grandson of Gary Anders of Shell and Donna Loecker of Basin.  Additional grandparents include Greg and Ellie Woydziak of Baker City, Erik and Diana Saam of Shell and Sue Anders and Howard Sumner of Billings.

With respect to the governor’s order, it is the universal custom to display the flag from sunrise to sunset (unless properly illuminated during the hours of darkness). The flag, when flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position.

The notice was read at Tuesday’s meeting of the Big Horn County Commission, with Chairman Jerry Ewen stating, “The commissioners add their concern and prayers to the families.


More details

Anders was assigned to the 4th Special Troops Batallion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, out of Fort Carson, Colo., when he was killed in action in Kalagush, Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

A release from the Department of Defense issued immediately after Anders’ death stated that he had died of injuries from enemy, small-arms fire.

Laird was able to add that the person who shot and killed both Mabry and Christopher Birdwell of Windsor, Colo., was a person in an Afghan uniform.   That person “is no longer alive, either,” according to Laird, adding that he was killed by forces acting in support of U.S. troops.

While not naming Anders or Birdwell, multiple news reports provided additional details about what happened on Aug. 27 in east Afghanistan.  According to an Associated Press report, two American soldiers (Anders and Birdwell) were shot and killed by one of their Afghan colleagues in the east.  Their deaths brought to 12 the number of American troops to die at the hands of their Afghan allies in August.

That same report states that Afghan officials contended that it was an accidental shooting.    A spokesman for the Afghan army corps in eastern Afghanistan said a group of U.S. and Afghan soldiers came under attack, returned fire and were running to take up fighting positions when the Afghan soldier fell and accidentally discharged his weapon, killing the two American soldiers with the errant rounds.

The spokesman goes on to say that the Afghan soldier threw down his gun and ran after he was questioned about the shooting by the commander of the unit.  According to the same report, the U.S. troops had already called in air support to help with the insurgent attack and the aircraft fired on the escaping Afghan soldier from above, killing him.