Nick Anderson of Schaumburg narrowly missed military deployments to Afghanistan this year, only to be accidentally shot and killed by an Army buddy and fellow 2008 Schaumburg High School graduate on Memorial Day, according to police in Georgia.
Police in Hinesville, Ga., arrested Kyle Mirochna, 23, on charges of involuntary manslaughter and pointing or aiming a gun at another person, in connection with Anderson's death Monday. Anderson was killed with a shotgun at Mirochna's mobile home just outside Fort Stewart, where both men served.
As Anderson's family planned funeral services Friday, Mirochna remained in the Liberty County jail in Georgia.
Hinesville police Maj. Thomas Cribbs said no evidence has been found of an argument or alcohol playing any role in what's being considered an accidental shooting.
Anderson's father, Tom, said he feels bad for Mirochna's family even as he's outraged by what he believes can only be negligence, given the amount of firearms training both young men received in the Army.
"I want to give the benefit of the doubt and say there was no alcohol involved," Tom Anderson said. "Everyone's in shock; they're in disbelief. They just can't believe it."
Family and friends have been trying to balance their grief with the need to reach out to one another and prepare for 23-year-old Nick's funeral next week, he said.
"My wife is devastated," he said. "She's always been attached to Nick. We've never experienced this before. Both my parents are alive. Both of my wife's parents are alive."
The sudden loss is all the more painful after seeing how well and how purpose-driven Nick had become after joining the Army a little more than a year ago, Tom Anderson said.
"We saw a definite change in him," he said. "When he wore his uniform, you could just see in his face a sense of pride. He thoroughly enjoyed what he was doing."
After years of looking for direction through classes at Harper College and the College of DuPage and odd jobs like the one at the coffee shop at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Nick's decision to enlist in the spring of 2012 yielded a mixed reaction from his family.
Though fearful for his safety, they were encouraged by what he seemed to be getting out of it. As well, American combat operations in Afghanistan were winding down.
Nevertheless, an expected deployment to Afghanistan earlier this year was avoided only by the federal government's sequester, Tom Anderson said.
Another potential deployment in May seemed so certain that Nick Anderson's parents flew out to see him May 5 for what they believed would be the last time for months. But even as they were there, that deployment was canceled, too.
The family began to hold out hope that such delays might even continue through the end of American operations in Afghanistan. But that hope left them even less prepared for Memorial Day's tragic events.
"Now we're almost at the point we wish he had been deployed," Tom Anderson said. "Maybe we wouldn't be having this conversation right now."
The elder Anderson said his understanding is that Mirochna was handling the shotgun and in the process of putting it down, and the safety catch wasn't on. The round struck Nick Anderson directly in the head.
Cribbs said Hinesville police got a call at 12:48 p.m. and arrived at the mobile home park to find Nick Anderson dead in Mirochna's trailer.
Both young men graduated from Schaumburg High School in 2008. Mirochna enlisted in the Army first, got married and had a child.
Mirochna and his wife are divorcing, and he lived alone in the mobile home where Nick visited him on Memorial Day, Tom Anderson said. With charges against Mirochna filed only Thursday, prosecutors did not have information Friday about who is handling his defense.
On Friday, the Mirochna home in Hoffman Estates was empty. The front door still bears an old sticker identifying it as the home of the proud family of a U.S. Army soldier, but neighbors said the family moved out about a month ago, though they didn't know where.
Visitation for Nick Anderson is scheduled from 3 to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, June 7 and 8, at Ahlgrim & Sons Funeral and Cremation Services, 330 W. Golf Road in Schaumburg. Services will be held there at 8 p.m. June 8.
Tom Anderson said his son will be cremated and his ashes buried with full military honors at 2:30 p.m. Monday, June 10, at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, 20953 Hoff Road, in Elwood, south of Joliet.