Avon Old Farms Honors Army Capt. Andrew Pedersen-Keel ’02 with Veterans Day Memorial 5K
This Veteran’s Day, the Avon Old Farms School community honored a fallen brother by organizing an all-school 5K in cooperation with APK Charities Corporation—a non-profit founded to honor and remember the ultimate sacrifice made by Avonian Captain Andrew M. Pedersen-Keel, US Army Special Forces.
Decorated soldier Pedersen-Keel ’02 was a proud member of the Avon Old Farms community. Throughout high school, he embraced all that AOF had to offer. He was a Dean’s List student, tri-sport varsity athlete, dormitory monitor, and editor of the school newspaper. Remembered for his enthusiasm, energy, loyalty and high moral standards he earned the trust, respect, and admiration of those around him. He graduated in 2002, and then from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2006.
During a Veterans Day special program, Head Football Coach Emeritus Kevin Driscoll ’72, who mentored PK through his years as an Avon student, spoke about PK’s life as a young boy who became a true Man of Avon. Driscoll described PK as a quintessential Avonian: he was involved in everything, but did so authentically. He had a talent for identifying the kids who didn't feel quite at home in the first days of school, and spent time with them to bring them into the Avon brotherhood. He was the “focal point” of a very successful varsity football team in 2001, a competitive athlete and student who embodied courage, respect, and honor. Driscoll urged students to follow PK’s lead and become completely involved in their school—as a student, as an athlete, and as a person.
“He was the finest example of what all Men of Avon strive to be,” explained Driscoll. “Few of us will lead a better life.”
Andrew was first deployed to Afghanistan in 2008, as an Army Ranger, serving as company executive officer and platoon leader. Following his first deployment he began Special Forces training, which he completed June 28, 2012. Andrew was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne).
On March 11, 2013, Capt. Andrew Pedersen Keel, known as ‘PK,’ was killed in action in Eastern Afghanistan. At the time of his death, Pedersen-Keel was serving as Detachment Commander of Green Beret Special Forces team in eastern Afghanistan. On that day, several NATO and Afghan service members, including Andrew, a second American soldier, SSG Rex L. Schad from Oklahoma, and the military working dog “Bak” were killed when an assailant wearing an Afghan National Security uniform opened fire on the group. Andrew was 28 years old.
Pedersen-Keel received several awards during his career, including three Bronze Stars, The Meritorious Service Medal, and The Purple Heart. In his career Andrew also earned the Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Ranger Tab, Special Forces Tab, Pathfinder Badge, Air Assault Badge, Parachutist Badge, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal and the NATO Medal.
After Coach Driscoll shared Andrew's story with current Avonians, Head Cross Country and Track-and-Field Coach Beth Larson outlined the logistics of Avon's afternoon 5K in honor of Capt. Pedersen-Keel: beginning at 3 p.m. teams would set off from the cross country course's starting line in waves to allow for social distancing. The top ten finishes overall would earn points for their dorm, so any competitive runner was able to join the first wave of runners, made up by the school's cross country team. The top 20 finishers would receive a challenge coin from Pedersen-Keel's unit.
Special guests Bob and Helen Pedersen-Keiser, parents of Capt. Andrew Pedersen-Keel and founders of APK Charities Corporation, we also present for the day's events. They were able to have lunch in the Riddle Refectory, visited their son's old dorm room, which is marked with a memorial plaque dedicating the room to his memory, and were at the starting line to see Avon's runners off and cheered them on as they finished.
"We want to thank the entire AOF family for a truly remarkable and very uplifting day," they wrote to the school. "There really are no words to describe how grateful we are for what you have done for us and APK Charities and for the effort put forth to honor and remember PK!"
The APK Charities provides financial aid and material assistance to charitable organizations and causes. APK Charities' mission is to serve as a bridge connecting our society and our Armed Forces, opening our hearts and minds to serve those who protect us.
We are forever grateful to the brave men and women who have protected our country, and will always remember the life of an extraordinary Avonian, Capt. Andrew Pedersen-Keel ’02, who died doing what he loved: serving the United States of America.