Hundreds of residents from across the shoreline and the country took to the road in Guilford on Nov. 4 for the fourth annual APK Charities 5K Road Race, 5K Ruck March, and Kid’s Fun Run in remembrance of Madison resident Captain Andrew Pedersen-Keel.
Madison residents Bob Keiser and Helen Pedersen-Keiser founded the charity after their son was killed in Afghanistan in March 2013. According to the charity’s mission statement, the goal of the charity is to honor and remember the sacrifice made by Capt. Pedersen-Keel and to raise awareness and support for active, retired, wounded, and fallen soldiers and their families.
Through APK Charities, proceeds for the run are divided and donated to charities in Connecticut. In addition, the Ruck March serves as a food drive for the St. George Parish Food Pantry and both the Guilford and Madison food pantries. This year, the Ruck March brought in more than 5,000 pounds of food.
At the race’s awards ceremony, State Senator Ted Kennedy Jr. (D-12) and State Representative Noreen Kokoruda (R-101) presented Bob Keiser and Helen Pedersen-Keiser with a replica of a sign that will soon mark Route 79 in Madison. Both representatives recently helped lead passage of legislation that will formally rename part of Route 79 in Madison as the Captain Andrew Pedersen-Keel Memorial Highway.
“We wanted to come up with a fitting tribute to honor the sacrifice that Captain Pedersen-Keel made, and that was to name a state highway in his memory,” said Kennedy. “Renaming this road is a small token of our immense gratitude to Andrew and his family for their service to this country. All of us on the Connecticut shoreline are incredibly grateful for the sacrifice that he made, and now his memory will be permanently placed in our town so that future generations can be aware of all that Andrew and his family have sacrificed for us.”
Kokoruda said the sign is a good way to honor Pedersen-Keel.
“Getting this highway renamed has been an amazing, collaborative effort, but years from now, the students in Madison are going to drive by and see that highway sign and they’re going to want to know who this guy was,” she said. “They’re going to find out who Andrew Pedersen-Keel was and hear his story, and that is going to be an important legacy for Madison.”
A biography of Pedersen-Keel was provided by Kennedy’s office:
Captain Andrew Michael Pedersen-Keel grew up in Wallingford and Collinsville, Connecticut, and moved with his parents to Madison in 2003. Andrew earned a bachelor of science degree in American legal studies from the United States Military Academy at West Point in May 2006. In 2008, Andrew was deployed as a platoon leader in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, where he led his platoon in over 150 combat foot patrols and three air assault operations. Following this deployment, Andrew continued his service at Fort Hood, Texas and Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Captain Pedersen-Keel studied the Pashto language and earned his Green Beret on June 28, 2012. Following this, he was redeployed in Afghanistan as a commander in the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group. On the morning of March 11, 2013, Captain Pedersen-Keel was mortally wounded.
Captain Pedersen-Keel’s awards and decorations include the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Expert Infantryman Badge, two Bronze Stars, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, the NATO Medal, Ranger Tab, Special Forces Tab, Pathfinder Badge, Air Assault Badge, and Parachutist Badge. Posthumously, Andrew received a third Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
For information on the charity, including how to donate, visit www.apkcharities.org.