Friends, family remember Apache Junction sergeant killed in military training incident
APACHE JUNCTION, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — Family and friends of Army Sgt. Andrew Southard are mourning his death and honoring his life. The Apache Junction native died along with four other soldiers after the helicopter they were in crashed in the Mediterranean Sea. His body was brought back to the U.S. on Monday night. Video shows soldiers at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware carrying their caskets, draped in American flags. Southard was 27 years old and grew up in Apache Junction, attending Apache Junction High School.
In videos posted back in 2019 by the Army, they asked Southard, when he was stationed in El Paso, Texas, why he wanted to serve. “I just want to be part of something bigger than myself. Compared to now from when I first joined, I am more proud, especially the job I’m doing. I really enjoy my job,” he said.
Another video of him highlights how selfless he really was as he talked about saving a woman from a burning car near Fort Bliss. “I feel like anyone would pull over. It was just my time and place where I was that day,” he said.
But sadly, Southard’s life was cut short when a military training exercise went horribly wrong. He was one of five Army soldiers in a helicopter that went down during an air refueling mission. It happened Friday along the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Chance Schick was friends with and served alongside Southard. They met in 2015 at basic training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He describes him as a caring, compassionate and hard-working man. “It blindsides you when something like this happens,” Schick said. “You don’t ever want anyone to not come home, obviously, but it’s like you don’t expect it to be that way.”
Schick says you could always count on Southard. He was passionate about serving but loved his family more than anything. He leaves behind a wife and young children. “Across the country, he rubbed off on everyone; whether you’re with him for a day or year, you were just always drawn to him,” Schick said.
Southard was deployed to Afghanistan at one point. He received multiple awards during his time in the Army, including an Army Achievement medal. The Army’s Combat Readiness Center is investigating what happened during this incident.
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