Friends and family of fallen soldier Andrew Velez gathered Monday night to celebrate his life. Andrew was killed in Afghanistan last week.
Andrew is survived by his wife Veronica, and his three children, Jacob, Jordan, and Jasmine. The family tells us the community's support is a real comfort. They've received hundreds of calls, letters, e-mails, and other well-wishes.
Andrew's father, Roy Velez, tells us the response has been worldwide. "We got a bundle of mail, just today. It wouldn't fit in the mailbox. Honolulu, Hawaii, people from Washington, Seattle, Washington, people from Connecticut, people from Idaho, I got so excited to read that kind of mail and to say, wow, this is a world wide thing," said Roy.
Monday family and friends met for scripture and song, prayer and peace. Family members say it's your support that keeps their spirit strong. "Don't get me wrong, I hurt. I'm beat up on the inside, but I'm so glad because I'm beat up on the inside, but on the outside, sir, it's the joy of the Lord. The celebration of life centered around a message Andrew delivered to a congregation when he was only 12 years old. There are many plans in man's heart. My heart was filled with plans for my sons, but Gods' purpose, that purpose shall prevail, or God's purpose, that will stands," said Roy.
Another message from Andrew came in an e-mail to his sister, Monica. He sent it just after his brother Freddy was killed in Iraq. It ends with this: "Keep your head up and keep fighting just like Freddy, because that is what I am going to do until I die. Just like him, because I want to be, one day, as strong as him, just like he wanted to be strong, like daddy," wrote Andrew. "This was a young man that wouldn't go astray. This is a young man that had the heart of a tiger," said Roy.
Roy tells us he does not know, as of yet, when they will be able to lay Andrew to rest. He hopes to receives word on that on Tuesday. In the mean time, two more services are scheduled for Tuesday.
The first is at San Ramon Catholic Church, 15706 Loop 493, near Woodrow, where a rosary prayer service is set to begin at 7:00 p.m. Then, at 7:30 p.m., another prayer celebration is scheduled at the Emmanuel Worship Center, at 1102 70th St.
On Thursday, the family will hold a memorial service at the First Church of the Nazarene, at 6110 Chicago Ave.
If you would like to send a message to the Velez family via email, click here.
Velez Death Under Investigation
The Department of Defense now indicates that Velez suffered gunshot wounds in a non-combat related incident. And, that his death is under investigation.