Andrew Lemstra
Andrew Lemstra

Andrew Lemstra

By Lori Kerns, AFRH-G Librarian

Andrew Lemstra was born in December 1933 in a northern province of Holland called Friesland. He was the third child of seven. As a child, he spoke the local language, Frisian, until he began grade school where he learned to speak Dutch. He vividly remembers German occupations coming in May of 1940.  Luckily, his family got liberated by the Canadian part of the Allied Forces in May 1945. It wasn’t until after the war that he found out his dad had been drafted and had joined the Resistance.

During high school Andy would ride his bike 10km to school and back. The children attended school six days a week. He and his classmates were also required to learn three foreign languages, German, French, and English. He and his friends/siblings would have fun and pass the time by playing soccer.

At 18, Andy got drafted in the Dutch Navy and served two years. Upon completion, he went to work in a candy factory. In 1957, he decided to follow one of his brother’s footsteps and immigrated to the United States. At that time, immigrants were obligated to sign up for the draft. Within six months he was sent a draft notice. He decided to join the Army before he was drafted. He completed his basic training at Fort Ord, CA. His first assignment after basic and AIT was for The Old Guard at Fort Myer, VA. As part of B Company, he pulled cordons for dignitaries. His next assignment was to Fort Belvoir, VA, and then on to France. While in France, Andy would spend his downtime playing soccer with a French team on Sundays. Next, he was sent to the Canal Zone in Panama in a unified command at Quarry Heights. Right about this time, he became a U. S. citizen because it was required for him to have a T. S. clearance. He was about to be sent to Vietnam for one year but was required to go to Fort Bragg, NC, for PSYOP training and to Fort Bliss, TX, to learn Vietnamese. In Vietnam, he served his whole tour with the G5 of the Third Marine Division Dong Ha doing things like putting leaflets in artillery shells and dropping leaflets from planes. After Vietnam, he was sent back to the Canal Zone where he stayed for three years. During this time he served as an admin specialist. After a short stay in Fort Ord, he was sent to Germany for three years to do housing referrals finding housing for military personnel. His last assignment was to Fort Leonard Wood, MO. Here, he worked in housing until he decided to retire from the military in 1979. During his time in Vietnam, he was awarded the Navy Commendation with a V device and a Joint Service Commendation Medal.

Upon his military retirement, he began civil service working with trainee clothing issue. He also worked at a Greyhound bus station selling tickets to troops. Getting tired of this job, he went to work for the contractor who had the contract for the mess halls. After a few years, he finally decided to retire for good.

While stationed in Panama, he fell in love and got married. He and his wife had two children, a boy and a girl. Both of his children now live in Missouri. His son comes to visit often and they enjoy each other’s company by going fishing. Andy also goes back to Holland at least once a year to visit his brothers and sisters.

Always knowing about AFRH, he decided to visit both the DC and Gulfport campuses. He decided to move to AFRH-G and has been here over four years. A very dependable and hard-working resident, he volunteers four days a week. It is very common to see him working the Admin or Library Circulation desk with his iPad watching soccer. He also enjoys reading the Dutch newspaper and skyping his brother. When asked what he likes about the home, he stated that he enjoys living here “because it’s new and the rooms are nice, the people are extremely helpful, and the facilities are excellent. The food is great too!” He also mentioned that he loves that “the old soldiers are here.”