CT soldier Andrew Pedersen-Keel to be honored at NASCAR race

Fallen CT soldier to be honored at NASCAR race

by Meghan Friedmann
[email protected]

Reprinted with permission

A local fallen soldier is getting a special honor this Memorial Day: Army Capt. Andrew M. Pedersen-Keel, who grew up in Wallingford, will have his name featured on a race car during Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.

“It’s a way to keep Andrew’s name alive, and it’s all part of trying to raise awareness in this country that many, many people have sacrificed in many, many, many ways,” said Pedersen-Keel’s stepfather, Bob Keiser, who lives in Madison. “It’s a way to recognize just a few that have given the ultimate sacrifice. … We’re lucky to have Andrew’s name there.”

The initiative is part of New Haven company Biohaven Pharmaceuticals’ “Military Salutes Program” to honor fallen soldiers, according to a release, which indicates Rick Ware Racing and Nine Line Apparel also are partners in the program.

One of four soldiers whose names are being featured on the cars’ windshields, Pedersen-Keel, a Green Beret with the 3rd Special Forces Group, was killed in Afghanistan in 2013, Keiser said. He had been heading up a Special Forces unit after its captain was injured, and “turned out to be a superior leader,” according to Keiser.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 William Reese, another Army officer with the 3rd Special Forces Group, said he met Pedersen-Keel while deployed in Afghanistan.

“He was always making sure that everybody else was taken care of, and that’s a very, very powerful character trait, and it draws people to you,” Reese said.

Though Reese only knew Pedersen-Keel for a few months before his death, he considered him a friend.

“He had a huge smile. He was always smiling,” he said. “He worked 20 hours (a day) … and he was happy to do so because he really enjoyed serving.”

Reese sits on the board of APK Charities, which provides direct assistance to veterans and Gold Star families. One of the organization’s major events kicks off Tuesday. It’s a “relay ruck” from Avon Old Farms, where Pedersen-Keel attended high school, to his grave in Arlington National Cemetery, according to Keiser.

During the “Ruck 2 Remember,” participants will carry 35 pounds while doing a slow jog, switching off after each mile, Reese said.

Keiser and Pedersen-Keel’s mother, Helen Pedersen-Keiser, founded the charity to help keep their son’s name alive, Keiser said.

For Keiser, the NASCAR event serves the same end.

“There’s an old saying that a soldier dies twice: once on the battlefield and once when his name is no longer spoken,” he said.

Biohaven will have four cars in the race, one for each branch of the military, each honoring a fallen member of the branch. The others being honored with their names on windshields include (SEAL) Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Harris, Air Force Capt. Mark P. McCarthy and Marine Cpl. Steven A. Rintamaki.

“We are very proud to be a part of the Rick Ware Racing team and work with Nine Line Apparel on such a meaningful opportunity to honor fallen service members,” Biohaven CEO Vlad Coric said in a written statement.

APK Charities is a non-profit organization raising funds for the APK Direct Assistance Program and APK Endowment Fund in loving memory of Captain Andrew Pedersen-Keel, Special Forces.

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