TAMPA — Ever since he was a young boy, Andreas "Andy" O'Keeffe had big visions for a future of serving the nation.
"Those ambitions started at an early age, at 5, when he said he wanted to be president," his father Shan O'Keeffe told a crowd of about 100 Monday morning at a ceremony renaming the Town 'N Country post office in honor of his son.
His son never made it to public office. A year ago, O'Keeffe and six others died in the accidental crash of their helicopter during a mission in Iraq. A captain at the time, O'Keeffe, 37, was promoted posthumously to major.
O'Keeffe attended Incarnation Catholic School, Tampa Bay Tech and the University of South Florida. After that, he graduated summa cum laude with a law degree from Georgetown University before joining the Air National Guard in 2003.
"Andreas loved life," his father said. "He was always happy, always wanted everyone around him to be happy. He was very caring and always loved to help people."
O'Keeffe left the comparatively safe duty of flying intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for the far more dangerous job of helicopter rescue and recovery.
O'Keeffe was deployed on missions around the world with the Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach, N.Y. But it was a mission inside the United States he was most proud of.
During Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, near Beaumont, Texas, O'Keeffe and his crew rescued 33 people and a dog from drowning during a single day, his father said.
He was co-pilot aboard an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter on March 15, 2018, when it crashed after takeoff from a base in western Iraq. An Air Force investigation determined that the pilot flew into a steel cable strung between two towers after misinterpreting navigation displays and overflying the intended destination.
"Andy O'Keeffe was one of the best examples of a patriotic, brave American to ever call the Tampa Bay community home," said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, who introduced the legislation renaming the Town 'N Country post office the Major Andreas O'Keeffe Post Office Building.
"I am dedicating this post office to Andreas 'Andy' O'Keeffe because of his selfless sacrifice to our great country and because neighbors can relate to his story. His service stands as an example to all of us."
Contact Howard Altman at email@example.com or (813) 225-3112 . Follow @haltman