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Casey Receives A.A. degree

Sheepskin for Sheehan

SCC honors Iraqi war casualty
By David Henson/Staff Writer

Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - In her journal, Cindy Sheehan has written a letter to her son, Casey, almost every night since April 4, when she and her family found out the 24-year-old Army specialist had been killed in Iraq.

Tuesday night, Cindy said she would write not only about her daily routine and how much she misses her son, which she usually does, but also about the degree he received from Solano Community College in a special presentation during the school's commencement.

"One of your classmates paid the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and will receive his degree posthumously," college President Paulette Perfumo told the graduating class.

The faculty, graduates and crowd came to their feet and erupted in applause in honor of the local hero as Casey's parents accepted the degree in theater and acting. As Cindy turned from the podium, she clutched the degree with both hands against her chest, her eyes full of emotion.

"It's kind of bittersweet," his father, Patrick, said before the ceremony. "We are proud of our son, but sad he's not with us."

Casey was involved with the college's newspaper, The Tempest, and wanted to get a bachelor's degree in elementary education. But Casey, who was born on Memorial Day, interrupted those plans because he wanted to serve his country during a time of war.

In the nearly two months that have passed since Casey died, the Sheehans have learned, mostly from fellow soldiers, bits of what their son's life was like in Iraq, a place he had only been a few weeks.

When his unit arrived in Sadr City from Kuwait, the soldiers they were replacing did not leave immediately, forcing Casey and many others to sleep in their vehicles. And almost every night, they took fire.

Apparently on the day Casey was killed with seven others in his unit, they had been ambushed by as many as 1,000 Iraqi insurgents, his parents said. Casey, the unit mechanic, had volunteered for the quick-response team, which took the brunt of the fire.

We don't think he died in vain because he saved his buddies, and that's sacred," Cindy said. "He died the way he lived."

Casey's life, and death, continue to touch the lives of friends, family and total strangers, his family said. Letters have flooded in since April from people who said Casey's story - that of a quiet, devout Catholic with unshakable integrity and moral strength - has affected them.

"People have said he made a huge impact on their lives, and because of his life and death, they want to change," Cindy said. "His absence makes a big hole, but his absence made the world a better place, even if it just affected one person."

While the outpouring of support has helped the Sheehans cope with their loss, grief is still a daily part of their life.

"I miss the world, how it was," Cindy said. "I want to go back to April 3. But those doors are shut."

Slowly, life is returning to a somewhat normal pace. While Patrick and Cindy still conduct interviews and attend events honoring Casey, work and family life have begun again.

But certain things have taken on new meaning for the couple, like Memorial Day and the rhetoric surrounding the war in Iraq. Casey's death has been used several times as reasons why the war is either right or wrong, which the couple doesn't mind.

Cindy and Patrick admit, though, to being frustrated with the war and with President George W. Bush, as they said the war seems to lack a clear goal or end.

"We support the troops 100 percent and the Army has been good to us," Cindy said. "But he (Bush) should have had a better plan before he sent our son over there to get killed. Casey is a hero because he saved his buddies, but did (his) sacrifice help the Iraqis' freedom?"

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