People told Eyewitness News that a United States Army captain killed Monday while serving in Afghanistan, showed incredible leadership skills at an early age.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ordered United States and Connecticut flags to be flown half-staff to honor the life of Army Capt. Andrew M. Pedersen-Keel, 28.
"Captain Pedersen-Keel made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our state and our nation," Malloy said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with his family, his friends, and his unit during this very difficult time. We pray for a safe homecoming for our troops who are stationed around the world, and thank them for their bravery and service."
Pedersen-Keel moved to Madison after he graduated from Avon Old Farms School in 2003 where he was known as PK because he was about four students in one.
Friends said he had top grades, was a varsity athlete, devoted to community service and school life.
"He really made his mark on this school. He was a true leader," said Avon Old Farms Headmaster Ken LaRocque. "I knew PK well. Everyone here did. It was hard not to."
Dean of Students and football coach Kevin Driscoll said Pedersen-Keel was a leader on the football field as well as a "catalyst."
"He was a superstar at school here," Driscoll said. "Everything we look for in a boy becoming a man, he epitomized that."
It's hard not to notice someone who was on the dean's list, an editor for the school newspaper, did Habitat for Humanity, Model UN, and participated in varsity lacrosse, wrestling and football.
Pedersen-Keel graduated from West Point in 2006 and eventually serve as captain of a special forces group. He had visited Avon Old Farms School just last year.
"He had already gone through a lot. He had his humvee blown up from underneath him. He was in the furthest outpost in Afghanistan, the furthest outpost," Driscoll said. "Probably the most dangerous place you could be in Afghanistan at that time. And he just loved it. "
He was a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, NC.
Military officials said Pedersen-Keel was killed by a member of the Afghan National Police while he was conducting a patrol brief in the Jalrez District Monday.
"I could just picture him walking up front of his men, leading his men. That was PK," Driscoll said. "I saw that on the football field when he was 18 years old."
His parents still live in Madison.
Malloy said flags are to remain at half-staff until the day of Pedersen-Keel's funeral. Those details have not yet been released.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said even as the war in Afghanistan begins to wind down, there are still ever-present dangers for hundreds of Connecticut soldiers.
"Captain Pedersen-Keel and every one of the other 63 brave men and women from our state lost in Afghanistan and Iraq died defending us and our freedom, and that sacrifice must never be forgotten," she said in a statement.
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