Auburn war widow cherishes memories, honors her husband's Iraq War sacrifice

Harley Andrews was killed Sept. 11, 2006, in Iraq when an IED detonated
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Sept. 11 is a day each year that is remembered as an anniversary of an unprecedented wave of terrorist attacks in 2001. For Auburn’s Halley Andrews, it has its own special significance. Her husband, Pvt. Harley Andrews was on patrol in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations, the U.S. Department of Defense would later report. The date of the fatal explosion was Sept. 11, 2006, five years after an event that helped propel the United States and its allies into war in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Pvt. Andrews was 22 when he died. He was listed as living in Weimar but he was stationed in Bramberg, Germany, where Halley and their son, Ayden, waited for his return. His widow remembers their time together as short but sweet. Now 25, Halley recalls the day vividly that they met. Harley was working on a construction job in Meadow Vista and she had visited it with a mutual friend. Pvt. Andrews lived from the age of 2 on in Yuba City, where he was raised and attended school. Halley is from the Auburn area. “We saw each other that first time and that was all we needed,” Halley said. With Ayden on the way and Harley in basic training, Halley smiles as she recalls how they were already making plans to be married – although her husband hadn’t popped the question. Harley finally made his formal wedding proposal to her on the telephone after some prompting, she said. They were married at the Placer County Clerk-Recorder-Registrar’s office in North Auburn. Five days later, Ayden was born. Less than two weeks after that, Halley was on her way to Germany to live. The hopes and dreams of a young life would end abruptly Sept. 11, 2006. Halley said it has taken a long time to stop the sadness. “We still have lives we need to take care of – staying busy always helps,” Halley said. “I took the attitude early on that you have to go uphill from here. Every year it gets easier and easier. But it took a long time to get there. To not be sad every day.” It’s the doorbell that Halley said she perhaps remembers the most. When she answered it, two men in uniform were standing out front to tell her that Harley had been killed in action. “I felt every part of me inside was going away,” Halley said. “I didn’t remember feeling anything until days later.” The plane ride back to Placer County was overcrowded, Ayden was crying all the way, it seemed, and the destination was a cemetery to honor Harley. While Halley cried during parts of the funeral at Auburn Cemetery, she also found that she was drawing her own unexpected reserves of strength and courage. “A lot of people warned me that the funeral was going to hit me hard,” Halley said. “But I never felt that was I was in the position where I had to say a final goodbye. And I still feel today that I never have to say a final goodbye to him.” Among the markers at the Auburn cemetery. Pvt. Harley Andrews’ stands out. There’s a cross at the top and Andrews’ name. It notes his birthdate and date he died, as well as the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals he won. Halley Andrews visits the grave regularly, sometimes bringing Ayden. Andrews said that she’s thankful to live in a small community like Auburn, where she has come into contact with so many supportive people since her husband’s death. “I’ve met amazing people and built relationships that I cherish,” Andrews said. “This mission in Iraq is over – the war is over. And even though my soldier isn’t coming home, he’s part of what has been accomplished.” Honoring our heroes The Journal is publishing a week-long series to honor those who’ve served and those who gave their lives during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. To read stories, view photos and watch video, visit Sunday – How does the community help? A look at what’s available for veterans Monday – A father remembers his son Tuesday – Family keeps soldier at home year-round Wednesday – Wife carries on husband’s memory Thursday – A look at local soldiers who’ve lost their lives Friday – A Gold Star parent keeps traditions alive Sunday – A soldier comes home