Andrew L. Pickens, Sr. is a retired U.S. Army veteran with 25 years of service.
He was raised in the small town of Cordele, Ga., and enlisted in the Army in Georgia. After basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., and advanced individual training in Supply at Fort Lee, Va., he reported to his first duty station at Fort Campbell, Ky.
Pickens found working in supply to be interesting. His duties involved requesting, receiving, storing, and issuing all supplies and equipment on the base. Everything had to be signed for and accounted for — uniforms, vehicles, office supplies, furniture, vehicles, weapons, MREs, and everything else utilized on base. He was always good at math in school and that aided him in his duties, as he had to know and keep up with the regulations of supply, and always be prepared for inspection.
His military service took him to locations around the world such as Korea, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, and Germany. He was also deployed twice — to Iraq for 14 months and to Afghanistan for 12 months. Stateside, he was stationed at several Mississippi units in Pascagoula, Richton, Wiggins, and Gulfport.
It was while he was in Pascagoula that he met his wife, Danielle, who was a civilian employee working for the Navy. After they married, they made their home in Gautier.
Pickens enlisted in the Army not just because he had family members who also served, but because he had a sense of duty. He wanted to serve because he loved helping people.
“I love my country and wanted to serve and protect our freedom. Serving America made me proud,” Pickens said.
Anyone who is in the military knows that duty often comes before family, and Pickens unfortunately faced that situation when he missed the birth of his first son. There were also missed holidays and other special occasions. Being away from his family was difficult, but his job was made easier with the support of his family.
While he can’t pinpoint one “standout” memory from his service, what does stand out to him are all the people he met and places he went. He liked Germany the best and hopes to return there again.
During his military career, he received numerous awards: Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal.
Pickens’ favorite post-military moment was when he returned home after a year-long deployment. His family knew he was coming home for good “soon,” but the date kept getting pushed back, until one day in late 2014.
His children were in elementary school and were assembled on the pavilion waiting for dismissal. People were talking, and then it got quiet. And then it got loud as people started clapping, cheering, and crying, and Pickens’ children realized he was home and had walked into the pavilion.
“It was the best homecoming and made all my time away from home worth it,” Pickens said
He retired from the Army in December 2014 as a Supply Staff Sergeant.
The values Pickens had in the military carried over into his civilian life. Those who know him know he’s a people person who thrives on making a difference in people’s lives.
Retirement from the military didn’t mean that he would remain inactive. Upon learning that Resurrection Catholic Middle School needed a basketball coach, he agreed to help out, especially since both of his sons played. He was then asked to start a basketball program at the high school and has been the head basketball coach for the RCS High School boys’ team for the past nine years.
He finds that coaching and his military experience are similar in that they both require order, commitment and discipline.
“Coaching a team and being in the military both require working with others. You have to have order to focus on your goal in the game or on a mission in the service,” Pickens explained. “You have to be committed to doing a good job so you can win games and complete military assignments. Discipline is also important in both fields and will help you achieve your goals with ease and without drama or confusion.”
That dedication to his job paid off. In 2022, Pickens won Coach of the Year, and the RCS Eagles won district and finished their season at 17-3.
In addition to his coaching duties, he is active in the community. He serves on the Usher Board of the Union Baptist Church of Pascagoula and also serves on the board for Ward 3 of the Senior Citizen Center in Gautier.
“To me, community means working with and helping your neighbor. It means treating others the way in which you would like to be treated,” Pickens said. “Working with the community and giving back are important. Giving back demonstrates unselfishness. I am willing to help others because others helped me.”
Pickens attributes his father to his success, both in the military and in his professional career.
“My father has always been my mentor. He taught me how to work hard for the things I want. My work ethic comes from him. He was my role model both personally and professionally.”
Pickens is overwhelmed by the respect and appreciation he receives from others when it comes to his service.
“When people find out I was in the military they always say, ‘Thank you for your service.’”
The best advice he’s ever been given is to “Always pray and give a hundred percent to whatever you do. Trust in God. Anything is possible if you stay focused and committed.”
And that has been his way of life.
When he’s not working, he enjoys yard work and cooking on the grill. He loves all sports, especially football. An avid Dallas Cowboys fan, he travels to Dallas once a year to see “America’s team” play. He also likes decorating his man cave with Dallas Cowboys and Georgia Bulldogs memorabilia. But spending time with his wife and children is what he enjoys the most.
Pickens is grateful and appreciative of his military career and the opportunities it gave him. If he had it to do all over again, he wouldn’t do anything different. He would still enlist in the Army and is humbled to have had the opportunity to serve.
“I came from nothing and ended up somewhere.”
Thank you for your service, Staff Sergeant Pickens.