The stories told on Thursday at the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel by friends and fellow soldiers of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Andre George Nance were humorous, joyful and uplifting — each telling the life of a leader committed to his family, soldiers and to the Army.
Nance, 34, had recently served as an air traffic and air space controller for III Corps’ Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion. He was found unresponsive at his on-post hotel room at Fort Rucker, Ala., where he had been attending military schools prior to reporting to Fort Bragg, N.C. He was to be joined by his wife, Staff Sgt. Tomora Nance, and their 4-year-old son Aiden when he arrived at his new duty station.
He had just completed air assualt school and was attending the advanced warrant officer course when he died, Tomora said.
Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, III Corps and Fort Hood commander, and more than 300 soldiers from III Corps headquarters joined Tomora at the memorial to remember her husband’s life.
For Tomora, that story began 14 years ago when, shortly after she had turned 18, she walked into a Hollywood Video Store in Randallstown, Md.
“As soon as I walked in, I saw him standing behind the counter,” she said. “He was so handsome, but he wasn’t even paying attention to me. So I asked for some movie title I knew wasn’t real, and he tried to help me find this nonexistent movie.”
She managed to get his phone number and that evening spent hours on the phone with him. Thier first date was the following day.
“We had so much in common, even though we were young,” Tomora said. “I was 18, he was 20, and we had been inseperable ever since.”
In February 2004, Andre Nance enlisted in the Army. Four months later, Tomora followed suit.
“It was pretty much to chase him down — I wasn’t going to let him goget away,” she said. “Despite deployments, training and schools, we’ve always kept in touch; through letters, MySpace back when that was around or through email.”
Those handwritten letters professing his love are her greatest treasures, Tomora said. He was an excellent provider, outstanding soldier and a career advisor. He never settled for less, always pushed himself to do better and was always available to help a soldier in need.
“Anyone he came into contact with, he made a positive impact on them,” Tomora said. “He was always there to help. I think that’s the biggest impact he made in life — he would drop everything to help somone.”
Nance deployed three times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and once for Operation Inherent Resolve, returning in August 2016 from Kuwait with the III Corps headquarters.
“The day they got back, one of his soldiers, (Sgt. David) Dravenstott, didn’t have a car and had literally nothing,” Tomora said. “I know (Andre) wanted to spend time with us, so he invited us along to help take his soldier to get everything he needed. He didn’t leave his soldier until he knew that he was okay. He was an amazing leader.”
Dravenstott fully agreed, speaking during the memorial about the impact Nance had made on his life.
“He was my mentor ... someone I could talk to with a passion and I am grateful to have known him,” he said. “Though his life was unfinished, the completeness of his life was full. His life cannot be measured by length, but by the deeds and commitments he fulfilled.”
Those commitments were defense of the nation, his soldiers and his family, Dravenstott said.
“Though our grief will fade and become bearable one day, our memories of who you were will always be in our hearts and in our minds,” he said. “We will never forget. When the colors rise and touch the sky, they fly in gratitude and profound admiration of your service to our great nation.”
For Chief Warrant Officer 3 Krystal Hoover, Nance was a long-time friend and battle buddy.
“The warrant officer who returned from (his last) deployment was mature, knowledgeable, focused, poised, gentle, thoughtful, morally sound and not easy to disturb or anger,” Hoover said. “For the past three years, he was a part of my everyday life — literally. He was a true battle buddy, brother, confidant, friend, therapist (and) problem solver.”
Hoover said his presence in her life helped her to become a better woman, mother, friend and soldier.
“He challenged me, in the best of ways — the ways people are supposed to challenge you when they care about you,” she said. “He was a daily inspiration in the way he lived his life.”
The Army has not yet released the cause of Nance’s death as it is still under investigation, but Tomora said she will never forget the man she fell in love with at a video store in Maryland.
“I say that my fondest memory of him is the day I met him,” she said. “But I think his proudest moment was when our son was born. I remember him looking down at our son, how proud he was. He was a family man — that’s what he loved. He was my better half.”
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