Master Sgt. Evander Earl Andrews

At 36, Evander Andrews had already given half his life to the Air Force. On Oct. 10, 2001, the sergeant and civil engineer gave the rest.

He was killed in a forklift accident in Qatar while building an airstrip there, becoming the first American casualty of the war on terrorism.

Andrews was honored at his funeral in Arlington National Cemetery's Old Post Chapel.

At the service, Andrews' former squadron commander, Col. Ken Shelton, described him as a man with a "behind-the-scenes style that was both sincere and heartfelt."

"Leaders get involved — and Andy did," Shelton said to the 150 family, friends and Air Force personnel who gathered to remember Andrews.

Shelton said he learned to recognize the sergeant "by the soles of his boots and the back of his head," as he usually could be found working on heavy equipment.

The son of Odber and Mary Andrews, Evander Andrews grew up in the tiny town of Solon, Maine, entered the Air Force out of high school and served 18 years. He was assigned to the 366th Civil Engineer Squadron, stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho.

Andrews' wife Judy and four young children — Ethan, 9; Leah, 6; Courtney, 4; and MacKenzie, 2 — sat in the front row of the chapel during the service. Ethan nodded in agreement when family pastor Thomas Westall, a retired Air Force major, described Andrews as a hero.

"Yep, he is a hero," the boy said in a small voice.