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Forget Michael Jackson. Meet Pvt. Justin Casillas

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By Michelle Malkin  •  July 7, 2009 11:58 AM

Over the weekend, I blogged about Pvt. Aaron Fairbairn, one of two American soldiers killed in in eastern Afghanistan by a jihadi suicide bomber.

The other American soldier killed in the attack has been identified.

His name is Pvt. Justin Casillas. The Woodland Daily Democrat reports:

A local soldier was killed Saturday in Afghanistan after a truck loaded with bombs approached his checkpoint and blew up, the soldier’s family said.

Justin Casillas, 19, of Dunnigan, graduated from Pierce High School last year, according to American Legion member Larry Schapiro. He was a paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 509th Airborne out of Alaska. His grandfather, Joe Casillas Sr., served in the Pacific theater in World War II, and his father, Joe Jr., served in the Air Force in the Vietnam War.

Justin’s mother, Donna, left for Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to collect his remains. Joe Jr. said they would be back Sunday.

“I don’t know how to explain this … but I’m proud of him, and I want to celebrate him,” Joe Jr. said. “We talked a little bit about this, before he went over … he wanted to do his part.”

Joe Jr. said Casillas had been in Afghanistan for four months. Casillas’ unit, Joe Jr. said, is the same one from which Taliban insurgents kidnapped a soldier on Tuesday.

The death comes amid heavier fighting in eastern Paktika province, according to the Associated Press. A battle on Saturday killed at least 10 militants, according to a statement from the the NATO-led force. Troops detained one militant, it said. The discrepancy in the militant death tolls could not immediately be reconciled.

During the battle, an insurgent drove a truck filled with explosives and gravel toward the gates of the U.S. base, Zawak said. When the driver did not heed warnings to stop, troops opened fire on the truck, which exploded, he said.

R.I.P.

Many Americans won’t forget your service and sacrifice.

Thank you, Justin.

***

Statement from Calif. Gov. Schwarzenegger’s office:

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Dunnigan Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today issued the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Justin A. Casillas of Dunnigan:

“California lost a great soldier in Private First Class Justin A. Casillas. He was a dedicated soldier who served his country with honor and bravery. Maria and I are deeply saddened to learn of Justin’s passing. We send our condolences to his family, friends and fellow soldiers as they mourn this terrible loss.”

Casillas, 19, died July 4 at Combat Outpost Zerok, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked the outpost using small arms and indirect fires. Casillas was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army, Fort Richardson, Alaska.

In honor of Pfc. Casillas, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

***
Related: The aunt of an American soldier killed the same day Michael Jackson died skewers misplaced MSM priorities.

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