Deceased Marine Staff Sgt. Austin G. Anderson was honored by servicemembers, former colleagues, Family and friends July 20 during a memorial service held in his honor at National Defense University’s Eisenhower Hall on the Fort McNair portion of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. Anderson’s mother, Mary Anderson, sister Allie Anderson and Congressman Frank Lucas of the 3rd District of Oklahoma also attended the ceremony.
The Marine served at NDU on the staff of the Joint Reserve Affairs Center in 2011 and 2012. He served there as the logistics noncommissioned officer in charge on the staff to support the reserve component national security course. He completed his service obligation in the Marine Corps Reserves on May 1, 2012.
Anderson died May 12, from injuries after surviving a small plane crash the day before. He was flying with four friends from Tulsa, Okla., to a Christian youth rally in Iowa aboard a Cessna 401 plane when it crashed into a field in southeast Kansas. It slammed into some trees and burst into flames, according to the Associated Press. The pilot and two passengers died at the scene.
Anderson, a 27-year-old former Marine who served two years in Iraq, pulled a young woman from the wreckage. The two then walked to a road nearby for help. He died the next day at a Kansas hospital.
The group was headed to a youth rally run by Teen Mania Ministries, which Anderson’s father, Ron, founded years ago, as an outreach for troubled youth. The Marine veteran had just graduated from Oral Roberts University May 5, 2012, and was employed at the ministries as head of operations and marketing.
The memorial service was a tribute to Anderson’s life, particularly his military service. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves after graduating high school in 2003, serving two tours in Iraq. About 175 people attended the ceremony from JRAC, including students attending the national security course and NDU employees. Photos of Anderson, taken during his service at JRAC, were projected on a screen during the ceremony.
“He was very passionate about his faith and about working out and staying physically fit,” said Marine Cpl. Malyri Ryan, JRAC personnel specialist. “He used to ask me to run with him, and I didn’t want to because I knew he would beat me,” she said with a laugh. Although Anderson liked to debate issues, Ryan said “He would always sit and talk with co-workers, giving advice and listening to whatever was going on in their lives.”
She said as a fellow Marine, Anderson always held everyone to a higher standard. “I give him credit for pushing me forward [in my career]. He pinned me when I was promoted and when he was promoted to staff sergeant in front of the National War College in January, 2012, he gave me his sergeant chevrons,” said Ryan. “When I make sergeant one day, it’s going to be a big deal for me to wear his chevrons. I want to make him proud.”
Army Col. Vincent Thompson, director of operations at JRAC, remembers how impressed he was when Anderson came to NDU. “He was a positive, motivated individual and always concerned about everyone,” Thompson said. “He was one of the best servicemembers that ever worked for me — a very dedicated and good Marine.”
Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Sagrario Medrano also has good memories of Anderson. “We met in July, 2011 and immediately were close friends, having working out in common,” she said. “He helped me with goal-setting, taking long runs together around Washington, and always asked me when I thought he could be in charge here,” she said fondly.”I miss him every day. It’s hard being here without him. However, we will remember him forever.”
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ryan Story also remembers when Anderson first arrived. “We have three sections in our unit: electronics repair, engineers and our admin section. I remember Anderson was pulled from engineers to work in the admin office and he used to get on people for not remembering their [common access card] passwords. He eventually became a platoon sergeant with me at our unit and in Iraq, when we deployed together in 2009, with the 2nd Supply Bn. [out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.] with [Cpl.] Ryan.”
“I felt like we should honor him for his service and contribution to NDU,” said Thompson, of the memorial service. JRAC Director, Navy Cmdr. Michael Mullen made introductory remarks. The invocation was delivered by Chap. (Col.) Kenneth Simpson. Thompson and Medrano also delivered remarks.
During the memorial service, flowers and a shadow box containing a U.S. flag were presented to Anderson’s mother, Mary.
“He was a good, young man,” said Thompson. “He was always excited and had a smile on his face.”