Family, friends remember soldier killed in Afghanistan

Family, friends remember soldier killed in Afghanistan »Play Video

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- In case you'd forgotten America is still at war, consider the 22 flags circling the roundabout near Andrew Keller's home.

Those 22 flags symbolized one for each year he lived.

Keller died in combat in Afghanistan last week. His family just returned from Dover Air Force Base on the East Coast. That's where they received his body after military officials returned him back to the United States.

The emotion for those who knew him best was overwhelming.

"He was my hero," said his teary-eyed father Jeff. "He was somebody I am so proud to call my son."

Jeff Keller began worrying about his son the moment he came home two years ago and announced his decision to join the military.
 
"He said, 'I'm joining the Army ... I already joined ... I leave in March,'" Jeff Keller said.

Andrew Keller was captain of the Southridge High School football team and the squad's most valuable player. Andrew Keller was the older brother to Derek, who played on Murrayhill's World Series Little League baseball team. Andrew Keller was a soon-to-be husband. He had plans to marry his girlfriend Marissa one day.

But suddenly, Andrew Keller was in training, writing his family and urging them not to worry because being in the military was what he wanted in his life.

Less than 24 hours before he died, Andrew Keller's family heard from him for the last time.

"We got a message from him from the top of a mountaintop ... everybody's safe right now ... I love you ... I'll text you as soon as I can again," Jeff Keller said. "About 16-17 hours later, we still hadn't heard from him and I just had a feeling and knew something as wrong."

Jeff Keller regrets not being home for that dreadful knock on the door from military officials to notify the Keller family of what happened to Andrew.

"I was out of town and Derek was here by himself -- my youngest son," Jeff Keller said. "My wife was actually out at the post office mailing another box to ... Andrew in Afghanistan ...  I wasn't here. I feel like I let family down when I wasn't here to be here when they all got here. My youngest boy was here by himself and it was devastating to him."

The devastation is now collective. As the Kellers hosted an open house Sunday, they learned even more about their son through the stories shared by others. Jeff Keller has a simple wish for those who never got to know his son.

"I just want people to know what a great human being he was -- not a  man or a hero -- but just what a great human being he was," Jeff Keller said.

Jeff Keller said his son was killed while setting up a remote outpost on a mountain that was going to be an observation point. As a firefight engaged at the foot of the mountain, Jeff Keller said his son, as a team leader, took a group of five soldiers down toward the gunfire. Some 15 Taliban fighters were killed before Andrew Keller died.