Sisters Remember their Little Brother Killed in Iraq

This article is more than 13 years old.

1st Lieutenant Andrew Bacevich , who was killed in Iraq on Sunday, was the son of noted opponent of the war, Boston University professor Andrew Bacevich.

WBUR's Fred Thys has more.TEXT OF STORYFRED THYS: Andrew Bacevich, the father, has described himself as a traditional conservative, and as such, he opposes the use of the armed forces unless America's vital interests are at stake. Here he is on On Point recently, talking about what the war in Iraq has done to American society.

ANDREW BACEVICH: One of the ironic aspects of the new American militarism is that it doesn't lead all of us citizens to rush down to our local recruiter, so that we can join up. On the contrary, this militarism has expressed itself in a national policy really almost unanimously endorsed, to contract out the function of national defense to a very small, relative to the size of the population, professional elite, and the rest of us basically cheer from the sidelines.

THYS: Bacevich was not among those who cheered, and, having served in Vietnam and with a son fighting in Iraq, he has not been on the sidelines. On Mothers' Day, the war came home to the Bacevich family in Walpole with news that First Lieutenant Andrew Bacevich had been killed in Iraq. His three sisters want to talk about him, but away from their parents' home. Their parents, they say, are too heartbroken to talk. They agree to meet in a coffee shop on Route 1. His sisters Amy and Jennifer recall his last homecoming, on leave, in February.

JENNIFER BACEVICH: And I think he was very tired, because of the physical and emotional stress that the war put him through.

AMY BACEVICH: He was pretty closed-mouthed about a lot of things, but it was clear that the work was very hard.

JENNIFER: I also think that he could see that the democracy in Iraq is not an overnight business, and so I think for him, especially given his background in politics, he may have felt some frustration.

THYS: After graduating from Boston University in 2003, Bacevich went to work first for his hometown State Senator, Jo-Ann Sprague, and then as a legislative aide for Governor Mitt Romney. Amy, at 31, the middle sister, says her brother was extremely charismatic, and might have gone back to politics when he left the Army.

AMY: People were really drawn to him. He was a good-looking guy. He was funny. He was energetic, and there was nobody that didn't like him. He was just a likeable guy.

THYS: Jennifer, at 34 the oldest, says Bacevich was born in West Point while his father, a Lieutenant Colonel, taught there.

JENNIFER: And because of my father's military career, we would move probably an average of every two years until he was thirteen, and that's when my father retired from the Army.

THYS: That's when Colonel Bacevich started to teach at Johns Hopkins University. They lived in the suburbs of Washington, and Andy Bacevich went to school at The Heights, a private day school in Potomac, Maryland. Katie, at 22, the youngest sister, says her brother played soccer through high school.


KATIE BACEVICH: and then he really got into running, like in college, he started running marathons, and besides that, he would run almost daily, I think.

AMY: Drive me nuts, because I'm a runner, and I train all the time, and Andy would not train. Like literally, the week before the Boston Marathon, he would decide: "Oh, I think I'll run it." And he would do really, really well, like with no training. It was amazing. Somebody would know somebody that would get him a number, and he'd be able to do it.

THYS: After Andy graduated from high school, his father took up a teaching position at Boston University, and the family moved to Walpole. Jennifer says Andy first went to Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, then transferred to BU.

JENNIFER: And actually, I think BU was a great fit.

KATIE: He loved BU.

AMY: BU was a great fit.

JENNIFER: I think he appreciates the city life, Boston being a cosmopolitan city, just sort of the energy of it and that kind of thing.

THYS: At BU, Bacevich had enrolled in ROTC, but was dropped because he had asthma. Jennifer says once he graduated from BU, while he was working for Mitt Romney, he found out that the Army had loosened its restrictions on people with asthma, and he joined.

JENNIFER: I think he really was a very patriotic person, and I think he really just loved his country, and wanted to do his part. He felt that that was a way that he could find a way to show his love and provide service to his country.

THYS: Jennifer says their father was supportive of Andy's decision. Asked about the war, the other sisters don't say much, but Jennifer replies that she feels ambivalent about it.

JENNIFER: I feel like the reasons that we went into it were very wrong, but I also feel like there's some obligation to engage with Iraq, because our country made that decision. We went that road, and now, we have to see it through. Our brother was doing his part to see that that indeed occurred.

THYS: Jennifer says the sisters have agreed to talk because they don't want the memory of their brother reduced to the fact that he was the son of a prominent critic of the war.

JENNIFER: I think a lot of people think this is a story about a father that was a professor that was against the war that had a son that died in the war. And it's not. More than anything, we think that our brother was....

KATIE: Terrific.

JENNIFER: He was a fantastic human being.

AMY: He was a gift, and we will miss him.

THYS: Bacevich was 27 years old. In an e-mail to the family, Bacevich's captain says the young lieutenant was posted on a main road in the Sunni triangle, North of Baghdad. They were on the lookout for white sedans. Bacevich ordered his soldiers to stop one car. The passengers refused to come out. Bacevich ordered one of his gunners to fire a burst. Still no response. Bacevich moved his platoon of four armored vehicles closer to the car. The captain's e-mail says two insurgents left the vehicle. One fired his AK-47. Bacevich returned fire. And then one of the insurgents blew himself up. The shrapnel hit Bacevich. Within 15 seconds, his soldiers were giving him CPR, and the medivac helicopter came about 25 minutes later, but Bacevich had died from his wounds. His soldiers say he saved the life of his gunner by the way he had positioned himself.

This program aired on May 16, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

Fred Thys Twitter Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.