by Gary Farber
Published this morning in the Valencia County News-Bulletin of New Mexico:
John Casey will tell you the story of his son. He will tell you Thomas J. Casey was always polite and well behaved as a child — had a great attitude, competitive and a team player.
Casey will tell you Tom made it through the rigors of the Albuquerque Academy and graduated cum laude in 1997 from the University of New Mexico with majors in Spanish and Portuguese.
And Casey will tell you the part of his son's story that he dearly wishes was unwritten.
On Jan. 3, 2008, Army Capt. Thomas J. Casey gave his life defending the men in his unit while on a mission in Iraq. He was 32-years old.
In recognition of his actions, the Army awarded Tom the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. His father and family received the medal on his behalf during a ceremony last month at Fort Riley, Kan. The Bronze Star Medal with Valor is the fourth-highest combat award given by the U.S. Armed Forces.
To be awarded the medal with the "V" device, a soldier's team members must give testimony before the Army's Decoration Board.
From that testimony, and the investigative report written about the day his son died, Casey says he has a pretty good idea of what happened out in the "hinterlands" of rural Iraq.