Neighbors line the streets to send off
hometown hero for overseas deployment
By Robert Stevens
EPHRAIM—An Ephraim neighborhood celebrated their own hometown hero in grand fashion on Monday night.
Command Sergeant Major Andy Shaw of Ephraim is a Sanpete native and a fulltime Utah National Guardsman. When his neighbors and loved ones found out he was going to be deployed overseas to Iraq for a year, they decided to give him the surprise of his life.
They threw him a giant surprise send-off party that went off without a hitch or a hint, which is surprising in itself, because the scale of participation and involvement from the local community and Shaw’s friends and family was significant in size.
More than 150 people lined the sidewalks waving flags and cheering as Shaw pulled up to his home after getting done watching his daughter’s softball practice.
The celebration had been planned to catch him off-guard, and seeing as how he’s a fulltime guardsmen, they did a good job, since you couldn’t hide this effort inside a dark room only to pop out and yell “surprise!”
When Shaw got out of the car and saw a giant United States flag flying from the extended ladder of an Ephraim City fire engine, the man who neighbors described as sometimes shy and quiet had tears of joy and gratitude welling in his eyes.
As children ran up to him to give him pictures they drew, and friends and family came close to claim a hug and a handshake, Shaw kept repeating the words that were stuck in his throat.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Shaw said to each person who squeezed him tight; they told him in return, “thank you for your service” and “you are our hero.”
Garages up and down the street on the east side of Ephraim were painted with messages like “Neighbors to a True Hero” and “We love Andy Shaw.” Signs were driven in the lawns of many houses with similar messages, and U.S. flags were flying high at every lawn on the block.
But none flew as high as the massive Old Glory waving from the fire engine ladder. Shaw’s neighbor Jared Anderson, an Ephraim fire fighter, got permission to use the engine to make the evening extra memorable by flying the huge flag big and bold.
Another of Shaw’s neighbors, Jeff Reynolds, a Snow College volleyball coach, said, “It all started with a few calls when we heard. Then people would offer with ‘how can we help?’ and it just grew.”
A handful of Utah National Guardsmen live in the neighborhood, so support was especially strong for Shaw, who was deploying to Iraq as Commander Sergeant Major to oversee 150 men in a helicopter specialist unit.
The responsibility over those men was a factor in why Shaw was going, said Anderson, since Shaw had already done a tour in Iraq before, working on a road crew.
His new unit is the 2-211 GSAB (General Support Aviation Battalion), nicknamed “The Warhorse”, a helicopter unit attached to a medical unit.
He joined the U.S. Army right after he turned 17, and achieved his rank before joining the Utah National Guard.
Shaw’s son Nick said the family worries about his dad making it back in one piece.
Shaw’s wife Carol, who was overwhelmed with emotions at the surprise celebration for Andy, said the effort was “amazing and supportive” and that having neighbors like they do will help her during the challenging year of waiting for her husband’s safe return from duty to his country.
Carol said she has become accustomed to the life of an Army wife. Andy and Carol were high school sweethearts. They have three children and eight grandchildren now.
“Every time he deploys, I stand behind him,” Carol said. She knew what she getting into when she married him, but is anxious for his retirement, so they can “do some things they want to do.”
When Shaw does return, he will be almost 60 and will officially be retired upon stepping foot on U.S. soil.
One thing is for certain, it’s going to take a heck of a welcome home party to top the send-off.