The True Story on the Heroism of PFC Justin Casillas

I am so humbled and honored when a family member of a fallen warrior reaches out to me via my blog. It has happened several times and I am always in awe that a family going through the tragedy of losing a loved one takes the time to reach out to me.

On July 6th, I wrote about two young paratroopers who were killed on the fourth of July whom were not old enough to even drink a beer.

I then wrote about this same incident again on September 2nd as there was a series of videos put together by the 4th BCT, 25th ID about the specific attack that happened on July 4th and these videos discuss the brave acts of one young man, PFC Justin Casillas.

The original report from the Army and to the family was that PFC Casillas and PFC Fairbairn were killed when their checkpoint was attacked. Part of this story gained worldwide attention when PFC Fairbairn’s father tweeted on Twitter “They killed my son..”.

We now know the initial report given to the Fairbairn and Casillas family was not accurate. The videos released by the unit mentioned above tell the real story.

Thanks to PFC Justin Casillas Mom reaching out to me and sharing some stuff with me, I now have the first-hand account also. This first-hand account came in the form of a letter sent from the Sr. officer on the ground at COP Zerok to Ms. Casillas. I have re-typed the contents of this letter below, verbatim.

I will tell you first-hand knowledge of the day of the attack. Our Combat Outpost (COP) took heavy indirect fire (IDF) and small arms fire (SAF) from almost all directions. Your son, being a mortar gunner (mortars are the company’s most lethal weapons), knew we needed to get suppressive fire on the enemy’s positions. He ran to the Command Post (CP) and received a fire mission to destroy those enemy positions. Justin was able to run back under fire and return fire with our 60mm mortars. Due to the effectiveness of the enemy fire, one IDF round landed next to the mortar pit and wounded one of the other mortarmen. At that point, they all ran back inside and Justin along with another Paratrooper dragged the other wounded Paratrooper back in to safety. Realizing that the Paratrooper needed to be taken to the Medics, Justin picked him up and ran back outside under enemy fire to get him immediate medical fire. Justin made it outside the mortar pit when another IDF round landed about five feet away and mortally wounded him. Justin paid the ultimate sacrifice for this country while trying to save a fellow Paratrooper. Your son’s actions on July 4, 2009, speaks volumes on his character. Justin most definitely has left a lasting impression on me and on the entire company.

Now you know the whole story.

From what I understand PFC Casillas has been put in for a Silver Star because of his actions on this day. Not that an award will bring him back, but it is important to recognize the unselfish and heroic actions performed on that day. PFC Justin Casillas and PFC Aaron Fairbairn ran out under enemy fire to perform their jobs. They were doing what they were trained to do, put effective indirect mortar fire on the enemy in order to suppress the attack. Both had more courage than can ever be measured. Then after being hit themselves and Aaron Fairbairn being seriously wounded, Justin Casillas took it on himself to get Aaron to the medical help he needed in order to survive. Justin did this without any regard for himself or his safety. Because of his courage, his training and the care he had for his fellow soldier, he gave his life. He gave it not only for his country, his Army, his unit, but for his fellow man. I hope this story is told far and wide, because there is a lot that not only soldiers could learn from, but also Americans in general.

Justin’s actions remind me of a quote from a book that I have carried with me since about 1991. To me it says it all….

“..And men don’t exhibit uncommon valor for scraps of metal and ribbon to pin to their uniforms. They don’t do it for a couple of hundred bucks a month they’re paid. They don’t do it because they want promotions or because they’re afraid of a court-martial. When the chips are really down, they don’t even do it for the Constitution of the United States. That may be why they enlist, but it isn’t why they become heroes. When the chips are down, they do it for each other…” (William Roskey, 1988, “From the novel Muffled Shots”}

 

flag A 60’x20’ flag that was flown by a crane over the cemetery on the day that Justin Casillas was buried (Photo provided by Ms. Casillas)

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12 Responses to The True Story on the Heroism of PFC Justin Casillas

  1. membrainNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for posting this Troy. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of both these brave Soldiers.

  2. MaryAnnNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks from me as well, Troy, for telling the story of these two Heroes and their fellow warriors.

    Their families’ hearts must be bursting with pride even as they are broken in grief. My prayers and deepest gratitude are with them.
    .-= MaryAnn´s last blog ..The Fourth of July Attack at Combat Outpost Zerok =-.

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  4. David MNo Gravatar says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/16/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.
    .-= David M´s last blog ..Patroling Paktika Province =-.

  5. AFSisterNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks, Troy. It’s always good to get the whole story from someone who was there- and what a story it is. *sigh*

  6. BrandyNo Gravatar says:

    Thank you for posting this. My husband was stationed at Zerok with these two brave young men. The events on July 4th were truly tragic – Both of these men made a lasting impression on my husband and therefore on myself! My prayers are with their families- and I will always be grateful for their sacrifices.

  7. MSG MohonNo Gravatar says:

    I had the priviledge of standing in the line of honor the day these two young men were taken on the first leg of their last trip home from FOB Orgun-E. It is nice to finally hear what happened that day- we sent a platoon of Sappers to air assault in to augment the defense of COP Zerok, and knew it was bad, but never heard specifically what had happened to our young comrades. What incredible feats our young men and women Soldiers are performing….

  8. Marilyn ClarkNo Gravatar says:

    Just wanted to let you know that the flag photo was taken by me, and was posted in real time on my blog: http://hellohappypitbulls.com/2009/07/freedom/

    Thanks for continuing the story.

  9. John SteinerNo Gravatar says:

    I attended the Gold Star Memorial in Feb 2011, in San Francisco. On Feb 17, I saw the family’s display for Justin, and I read the citation to accompany the award of the Silver Star. Absolutely Remarkable, this young man is a HERO. He fully deserved the Silver Star for his actions. And some say teengagers today are this or that (none of it good), to which I say, read the Silver Star Citation for Justin, he was a teenager above and beyond. Without hesitation he risked his life to dave another soldier and lost his in that effort.

    I was proud then and proud now to have Stood the Patriot Guard Riders Flag Line at his funeral services.

  10. BouhammerNo Gravatar says:

    There is a new post up with a newly released video about this day. You can find it at http://www.bouhammer.com/2013/02/revisit-the-attack-on-the-4th-of-july/

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