Candlelight vigil honors Midlands airman killed in Afghanistan - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Candlelight vigil honors Midlands airman killed in Afghanistan

Senior Airman Andrew S. Bubacz (Source: Department of Defense) Senior Airman Andrew S. Bubacz (Source: Department of Defense)
Thousands of Team Shaw members lined the streets Nov. 18 to pay their last respects (Source: 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs) Thousands of Team Shaw members lined the streets Nov. 18 to pay their last respects (Source: 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)
Thousands of Team Shaw members lined the streets Nov. 18 to pay their last respects (Source: 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs) Thousands of Team Shaw members lined the streets Nov. 18 to pay their last respects (Source: 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

By Tim Pulliam - email

SUMTER, SC (WIS) - A Sumter County community honored a fallen airman through candlelight Thursday night. Andrew Bubacz died in Afghanistan last week, and family and friends held a vigil Thursday night in his hometown of Dalzell.

On a crisp, cool night, light from warm candles lit sad faces of those who miss Staff Sergeant Andrew Bubacz. The 23-year-old airman died last Friday of head injuries while maintaining a communications tower at a forward operating base in Nuristan, Afghanistan.

"I feel like a part of me literally died when he did," said Heather Allman. "There's a part of me missing that's with him, and it will always be with him."   

Andrew's closest friends gathered at his parents' home to share memories, laughs, and tears. "He was just one of those people that deserved the utmost respect," said Amanda Benavides.

"Knowing that I need something or someone, I can't just call them anymore," said Allman. "He can't give me the amazing advice he used to give. He can't be there to hold me when I cry."

"We lost a really amazing guy, who shouldn't have gone," echoed Benavides.

Andrews died from a head injury while working on a tower in Afghanistan. Friends say he was funny and warm, just like the flame that glows in his honor.

"I don't know if I should say the things he would say about the vigil, but he would be thinking he's grateful to have us as friends and to know that we're there for him and to know that he meant that much to us," said Allman.

Though Bubacz was not assigned to Sumter's Shaw Air Force Base, thousands of fellow soldiers turned out on Thursday to honor their fallen comrade by saluting the hearse bearing his flag-covered coffin as it moved from Shaw's flightline across base and out the main gate.

Bubacz's public service will be held Friday at 11:00am at Bullock Funeral Home in Sumter. After the service, a procession carrying Bubacz's body will travel to Fort Jackson National Cemetery for burial. 

Bubacz was assigned to the 97th Communications Squadron at Altus Air Force Base. Squadron commander, Maj. Randy Wardak, said Bubacz had a tremendous effect on the unit and across the base, and will be missed.

Bubacz's death is still under investigation.

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Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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