Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Craig Cantrell
4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
ST. LOUIS — The 4th Infantry Division honored a long-standing military creed to never leave a fallen comrade behind when it returned the memorial plaque dedicated to Sgt. Amanda Pinson to her Family in St. Louis Dec. 7.
Pinson was killed by indirect fire at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, March 16, 2006, while assigned to the 101st Military Intelligence Detachment as a signals intelligence analyst.
She was the first female signals intelligence analyst killed in combat. Subsequently, officials named the COB Speicher military intelligence building Pinson Hall, and affixed a plaque to memorialize her service and sacrifice.
The responsibility of caring for the plaque and honoring Pinson’s memory was handed down and charged to every incoming intelligence sergeant major, said 4th Inf. Div. Military Intelligence Sgt. Maj. Mari Sidwell.
The 4th Inf. Div. was the last unit to occupy the building before handing it and COB Speicher over to the Iraqis.
“When (Sidwell) said I’m going to bring (the plaque) to your house, I was like ‘you’ve got to be kidding me,’” said Chris Andrews, Pinson’s mother. “They’re going to come all the way down here to bring the plaque? I was shocked.”
“I’m just doing the right thing, bringing a Soldier home to her Family,” said Sidwell.
Sidwell arrived at the Andrews residence in St. Louis where Pinson’s relatives had gathered to witness the presentation. They all wore Sgt. Amanda Pinson memorial T-shirts.
“Sgt. Pinson’s mother asked for a low-key ceremony to continue the healing process,” said Sidwell.
Andrews and her son, Bryan Pinson, stood next to Sidwell in Andrews’ living room as she presented them with the plaque and read the memorial poster detailing Pinson’s life and career.
“When Amanda decided to join the military … the second she joined, I was right behind her,” said Andrews. “Totally 100 percent supportive.”
Pinson led a life of accomplishment and set herself apart from the crowd on several occasions.
She demonstrated talent at an early age when she won an award during the Greater St. Louis Science Fair. She later distinguished herself as a leader as a sophomore at Hancock High School when she created, designed and implemented the Hancock Environmental Leadership Program.
Pinson’s story continues after her death. The Amanda Pinson Memorial Scholarship goes to graduates of her high school. Heroes Way Interstate Interchange Program, a program that honors those who died while serving in Afghanistan or Iraq on or after 9/11, has erected a sign bearing Pinson’s name at the interchange of Interstate 55 and Bayless Avenue in St. Louis. “Angel in Fatigues,” a song written and performed by Field of Grey in her memory, details the life of a female Soldier.
There are plans to name a cryptology center Pinson Hall in recognition of her sacrifices.
“It’s huge that an intelligence Soldier gets recognized. Most cryptology centers are named after career intelligence Soldiers,” said Sidwell. “The fact that they’re going to name it in her honor is great.”
“It’s amazing that Amanda’s story keeps going on and on because she did sacrifice a lot and she did make a difference,” said Andrews. “She made a difference in my whole family’s life. We’re all different people because of her. The Family says all the time we want to be like Amanda.”
When asked how she felt about her daughter’s sacrifice, Andrews had mixed emotions.
“Her sacrifice has made me a totally different person than I was before,” she said. “We’re extremely proud of her and everything she accomplished, but you still have to go through life.
“Bringing the plaque and the poster home was closure for the Army, to make sure Amanda was home, but for me and my Family, it opened another very important chapter of how she was remembered by her Army Family and brought to life more memories for us to cherish.”