Reporter's note: I knew Andrew Holmes as Andy. We were classmates beginning in the fourth grade, when he moved with his mother and siblings from Pocatello to Boise after his parents divorced. We attended our high-school homecoming dance together. I remember his big smile and drooping brown eyes. I also recall him wanting to make sure I had a wonderful time that evening; he was always sweet and kind. We lost touch after graduating high school. Later that year, I went to college in Montana to study journalism as he shipped off to basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., after joining the United States Army. - Lizzy Duffy
Andrew Holmes arrived at the Boise Airport on Oct. 25, 2015 on American Airlines flight 572, touching down at 8:16 p.m. It was the first time he had been home since 2010. A burst of cold air greeted him as he stepped outside the airport doors, the first wind chill he had experienced in more than five years.
- Kim Starkey Photography Copyright 2015
- Hugs and smiles greeted Andy Holmes when he arrived at the Boise Airport on Oct. 25, 2015.
Prior to his journey home, Holmes spent five years, five months and 15 days in a military prison for the murder of an Afghan man and had been convicted of being part of a group of U.S. Army soldiers dubbed "The Kill Team" while deployed in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province. Holmes also admitted in a military courtroom to drug use and being in possession of a human finger, which Holmes said had been given to him by his staff sergeant.
"Now, I wasn't so innocent," said Holmes. "I wasn't the Andy Holmes that everyone saw as the easygoing, laughing, always smiling kind-of-guy. [But] now you'll always know, no matter what, that I killed somebody. It was very much a coming of age. I didn't feel an ounce of remorse for [the victim] or his family because that was how I was trained to be."
A team of military prosecutors said between January and May 2010, Holmes and at least three other American soldiers, part of U. S. Army 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, had been involved in the killings of three Afghan civilians for sport, and had even gone as far as staging the killings to look as though the victims had been a threat to U.S. forces. Seven others soldiers were ultimately accused of participating in the cover-up.
By the time Holmes and his fellow soldiers were convicted in 2012, prosecutors had called the war crimes among the worst in recent memory.