Born in Wichita Falls, TX, Andy was the son and grandson of decorated military men. His family was devout church goers on Sunday and upstanding members of the community. It was no surprise he joined, or was enrolled in, the Army Cadet Corp by middle school. Andy did well in boot camp and after AIT had his choice of assignments. He joined the mounted infantry, advanced recon because he thought it would be cool to drive a tank. Most of the time, after the initial fighting in the Iraq War, his unit played the part of a glorified swat team.
Andy’s father called in a favor and his son was issued a Master Key Breaching Gun. This made him the default point man for breaching and entering a hostile building. Armed with his Master Key and his faith in the good Lord, Andy was fearless leading his unit through the door. He believed in the rightness of what he was doing and believed he was protected, and based on his results he may well have been. Andy’s squad started referring to him as Handy Andy and right away the name stuck.
Andy’s success came to the attention of a CO who wanted him for his skill and believed he could manipulate the young soldiers unwavering faith in the rightness of his actions. Andy was approached with the chance to join a special unit and do some “real good” for god and country. He was pulled out of the city he was stationed in and sent to an undisclosed location for further training. Andy was part of a new unit. They were trained to be inserted covertly into hostile territory, eliminate an objective and extract themselves before the blood was cold. The missions became harder and so did Andy. His image of being an upright soldier in the service of god and country twisted. He was now the righteous wrath of the lord poured out on the unrighteous.
During the years that ensued, he developed a real taste for killing. The rightness of what he did gave way to the joy in ending bad guys. He felt unstoppable some days, breaching a door and charging in firing on the unsuspecting targets on the other side. Not all of the targets were hostiles, but that mattered less and less as time went on. His unit went on missions that were further and further outside of the area that the U.S. was operating in. The targets became more and more questionable as legitimate war targets, and began to seem like expeditious solutions to potential future problems. Andy’s unit would meet with men in dark sunglasses, all named Mr. Smith, who gave coordinates and vague instructions like eliminate all on site. What had started as a toe across the line became a dead sprint. The problem with running in the dark is you will fall.
The CO in charge of Andy’s missions eventually had to bite the hand that pointed, provided and covered up. Suddenly, after years of autonomy, the whole mission was the subject of investigation, going all the way back to the beginning. Everyone was called back to the states and questioned. Interrogations took place, charges were threatened and careers were on the line. The whole unit was refusing to talk, except one soldier who had been brought up in Texas with the instruction that you never tell a lie.
Andy spilled everything. As the story unfolded and the details were revealed, he was under greater and greater scrutiny why he had done what he had, been where he was, killed who he did, and where the hell had the orders come from. The constant pressure started to break down the walls that Andy had been able to construct between himself and the reality of his actions. As the weeks went by he was brought face to face again and again with his actions. At the end, the CO was court-martialed and promised to make Andy pay, the other soldiers were dishonorably discharged, and Andy was sent home.
He arrived back in Wichita Falls with a discharge, full retirement pay, a redacted DD-214 and chronic nightmares. He couldn’t tell anyone what he had been doing and his father looked at him with a question in his eyes that he wouldn’t ask and Andy couldn’t answer. After more than a year of sitting around and drinking himself into dreamless unconsciousness he decided the only way to get past what he was would be to make something new. Spending what he now viewed as his ill gotten gains he purchased some new gear, including a new Master Key, and started looking for opportunities to do the one thing he was good at.