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Gold Star mom challenges SecDef on son's death, search for Bergdahl

Jun. 13, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
The mother of 2nd Lt. Darryn D. Andrews, 34, wants answers from the Defense Department. She was told by her son's soldiers that he died while on mission looking for Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl.
The mother of 2nd Lt. Darryn D. Andrews, 34, wants answers from the Defense Department. She was told by her son's soldiers that he died while on mission looking for Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl. (Army)
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Sondra Andrews will testify on Capitol Hill June 18 as she continues her quest to learn the truth about her son’s death in Afghanistan.

Andrews’ son, 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews, is one of six soldiers allegedly killed while searching for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The names and photos have been shared across the Internet via social media and originated from soldiers and media reports.

This week Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel adamantly rejected any link between Bergdahl and the casualties that occurred in the months following his capture.

“I’ve personally gone back and asked that question inside the Pentagon,” Hagel told lawmakers. “In the Army, in all of our reports, I have seen no evidence that directly links any American combat death to the rescue or finding or search of Sgt. Bergdahl.”

Andrews is very skeptical.

“We’re still hoping for the truth,” she said. “I really don’t see how [Hagel] can say that with such defined confidence that there’s no room for doubt. I think they’re not being truthful.”

Bergdahl disappeared June 30, 2009, from a base in Paktika province, near the border with Pakistan. After almost five years of captivity, he was released May 31 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners who were being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Bergdahl arrived at San Antonio Military Medical Center Friday for the third phase of what officials believe will be a lengthy reintegration.

In 2009, Bergdahl and Darryn Andrews were deployed with 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

Soldiers who say they served with Bergdahl have since spoken out on social media and in news reports that then-Pfc. Bergdahl abandoned his post, wandering away from the combat outpost on his own. Many expressed anger that soldiers were killed while searching for Bergdahl.

Darryn Andrews is believed to be one of those men.

He was killed Sept. 4, 2009, when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device and a rocket-propelled grenade, according to the Defense Department notice announcing his death. He was 34.

The military told the Andrews family that their soldier died after a mission to capture a top Taliban fighter, Sondra Andrews said. Her son’s battle buddies told her a different story, she said.

“They said, ‘No, ma’am, we were looking for [Bergdahl],’ ” she said.

Andrews said it’s “distressing” that officials seem to be trying to discredit those soldiers who have spoken out against Bergdahl.

“I just think that they’ve conjured up what they’re going to go forward saying, and they are so focused on what their message is going to be that they haven’t given any consideration, they haven’t evaluated anything these men have said,” she said. “I think they’re really trying to discredit these men, and that’s distressing to me.”

Since news broke about Bergdahl’s release, Andrews has spoken out in the media about her son’s death. She also received a call “out of the blue” from her son’s former commander.

“He said, ‘I’m sorry I haven’t been able to get to you, I’ve been meaning to talk to you,’ and all these platitudes, and he said, ‘I wanted to reassure you that Darryn was not hunting for Bergdahl,’ ” Andrews said.

When she asked for more information about the mission during which her son was killed, the commander paused and explained that the soldiers were going after a bombmaker.

“It just didn’t feel truthful. Maybe it is, but it just doesn’t fit,” Andrews said, comparing what the commander told her with what the family was told shortly after her son was killed.

“I feel like he was trying to maybe suppress our vocalization,” she said.

Andrews declined to name the commander.

She said her family is going to continue to speak out until they feel their questions have been answered.

“We need this in order for our future soldiers and present soldiers and their families to feel they’re going to be treated honestly and fairly,” Andrews said.

Until then, Andrews said her family has found comfort from her son’s battle buddies.

“They’ve just been so kind and so careful in wanting to make us aware of what they were going to say and what was happening and how much respect they had for our son,” she said. “We just couldn’t have been treated more kindly. It’s comforting to know that they appreciated what [Darryn] was trying to do in wanting to be the best leader they ever had. That was his point in going back and becoming an officer. He wanted his men to know that officers care.”

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