1st Lieutenant Andrew Long Comes Home

In many ways, Andrew Long was a typical Westport boy.

He went to Kings Highway, Bedford Middle School and Staples. He lifeguarded at Longshore, and became an Eagle Scout with Troop 36.

He veered a bit from the typical path in 11th grade, when he transferred to Phillips Exeter.

After graduating in 2004 Andrew entered Colgate University. As a senior he applied to Army Officers Candidate School. He was commissioned, and was stationed in Georgia, Kentucky, California, Louisiana and Kansas.

And then, last April — in a journey far from typical for a young Westporter — Andrew went to Afghanistan.

1st Lieutenant Andrew Long, in Afghanistan.

“He was always interested in the military,” his mother Sandra explains. “As a kid, he was really into the Civil War.”

She thinks 9/11 influenced him greatly. “He was in 10th grade at the time. From then on, he thought about serving in the military all through college. We were at war, and he wanted to help.”

The Longs were not thrilled.

“We’re not a military family, and that’s not what most Westport kids do,” Sandra says. “We were worried. But he was adamant. So we said ‘We support you. We love you.'”

Now, Sandra says, “We’re so proud of him. He is so brave, dedicated and patriotic.”

In Afghanistan Andrew was posted to a forward operating base 50 miles west of Kandahar.

Part of the famed 1st Infantry Division — “The Big Red One” — Andrew served mostly as a maneuver platoon leader, with a combination of armor and infantry men. They used vehicles, went on foot patrol, and did a number of air assault missions with helicopters. Sometimes, he commanded Afghan soldiers.

“He’s amazingly versatile,” Sandra says proudly.

The Longs did not know much about what he was doing. They spoke every 3 or 4 weeks by phone, for 10 or 15 minutes at a time.

1st Lieutenant Andrew Long (left), with his tank crew.

“He talked about the great poverty in Afghanistan — mud huts, no water or electricity,” she says. “Sometimes things were very quiet. Other times, during missions, it was wild.”

The hardest part, he told his mother, were when members of his unit were killed.

“I’m sure there’s a ton of stuff I don’t know,” she notes.

On Christmas Eve, Andrew called his parents. “I’m coming home,” he said.

1st Lieutenant Andrew Long returns to Ft. Riley.

When he returned to Fort Riley, Kansas earlier this month, it was with a Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service. The Longs were there to greet him.

After spending some leave time in Westport, Andrew will return to Fort Riley.

It won’t be forever. Sandra says he will not make the military his career. He has, however, “certainly appreciated” his service.

Friends and colleagues have “been great,” she adds. “Everyone at Saugatuck Congregational Church wrote cards. Neighbors sent packages. People at work (Pitney Bowes) were very supportive.”

Yet still, something felt strange.

“There are very few military families here,” Sandra says. “When I went out to Kansas, there were lots.

“I think people in Westport don’t know what to think about having a son serving in the military. They’ve been super to us. But in some ways, we’ve also been alone.”

20 responses to “1st Lieutenant Andrew Long Comes Home

  1. The military needs more people like Andrew and the “1%’ers” in Westport and on Wall St. need more people who have served in the military and risked their lives solely out of a desire to serve their country as opposed to serving themselves. If there were, I doubt that we’d be facing bankruptcy as a nation due largely to the fact that we are fighting never ending wars based on the decisions of leaders who have no idea how horrible war is. Thanks to the grace of God Andrew appears to be coming home very sound in body and spirit and I hope his ambitions lead to a high public office or in business where people of his quality are very sorely needed. Thank you Andrew!!!

  2. Thank you Andrew, it is good to have you back,
    From all of us at “Saferides of Westport”.

  3. An inspirational story.

  4. The Dude Abides

    I think many many Westporters are well aware of the sacrificies and courage of soldiers and sailors like Andrew. During the Vietnam era, many hundreds of Westporters served this country and five lost their lives. We don’t have short memories and for those of us who did serve, we shall never forget. But most of our military today is comprised of young men and/or women from towns smaller than 10,000 and from rural areas. You must have been a “city slicker” to many? And as you well know, in combat, no one really cares about your backround or percentage ranking in the family income wealth chart. Welcome home Andrew and thank you for your service. May your transition back home be one of inner peace.

  5. What a difference forty years makes. When I was commissioned an Army 2 LT in 1974, most of our fathers (and some mothers) were either WW2 or Korean vets.

    Thank you Andrew for your service.

  6. Welcome back and Thank YOU.

  7. Though his mother will likely demure from the following compliment, it’s true that because her son is making such an exceptional and valuable contribution to society when most others with similar options are not, she and her family are placed on a well-revered pedestal where they are not likely to have much company.

  8. It is unfortunate that more do not serve.
    It is unfortunate that more have to serve.

  9. Thank you, Andrew, for your service. You are our hometown hero. Blessings and gratitude for all you did and that you are home safely.

  10. Joanne Leaman

    Welcome home Andrew! Thank you for your service. We are so glad to hear you ar ehome with your beloved family.

  11. Thank you for your service, Andrew Long! Welcome home.

  12. A great story, Dan, that in addition to acknowledging Lt. Long’s service, points out the enormous change in a typical Westport kid’s exposure to military vets from a generation ago. Growing up in 50s and 60s Westport meant encountering — and being heavily influenced by — vets in almost all our daily activities. Our fathers, neighbors,male teachers, police, firemen, employers, coaches from Little League through Staples, Scout leaders, doctors, etc. were almost all WWII and Korean War vets. Think about that. Elementary school gym classes and Scout meetings included close-order drill and military-style calesthenics. Scout hikes were usually in cadence (which often collapsed completely and hilariously). I recall resting on the sidelines after coming out of a pre-season football scrimmage at Staples when Lou Nistico sidled over. He said, Tommy, you fellas oughta be proud of the guys who come to see you play.” At first I didn’t get it. Then Lou pointed out a few dads standing on the sidelines watching the action on the field. “Look at Mr. Ruggiero, and Bill Resko — and Doc Lynch.” Then I got the message: all of those gentlemen, and others, were missing limbs lost during WWII. No wonder hundreds of Westport kids served in Vietnam, as the Dude has pointed out. Amazingly, most in the early years of that conflict were enlistees. It was a different time and a very different town. Kudos to Andrew Long. Welcome home, Lieutenant, and God bless.

  13. Thanks for your service and welcome home. Lots of veterans in town. But few sons and daughters serving. Too bad.

  14. Westport was a different town in 1941 and the world was a different place. However, from what I’ve read, 1LT Andrew Long is his own man and would have distinguished himself well in 1941 as he has in the present day.

  15. God bless you child, stay home

  16. Thank you for your service, Lieutenant Long, and congratulations to you and your family on your safe return.