Casey Sheehan grew up in a devout Catholic home. He served as an altar boy and then as a key member of his church's youth group for years.
When he was old enough, Casey joined the Boy Scouts, becoming the very second Eagle Scout out of his troop.
He enlisted in the Army when he was twenty years old. He decided to be a mechanic. He would undergo Combat Lifesaver training - a class on how to give IVs and treat trauma only second in intense learning to combat medic training. He was also certified to assist with giving communion to soldiers while in the field.
Specialist Sheehan re-enlisted in the Army in 2004 knowing full well that he could be sent into a combat zone.
Casey Sheehan was a Humvee mechanic with the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment.
On April 3rd, 2004, forces loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al'Sadr stormed police stations and government offices in Sadr City (a city of over 2 million). They knew the Americans would come, and they wanted a fight. Muqtada Sadr was working them up into a religious frenzy. And he had his thugs murder anyone who he thought might stand in his way - even other Shi'ite clerics. His forces were known as the Mahdi Army.
American forces quickly surrounded Muqtada al'Sadr's quarters.
On April 4th, 2004, al'Sadr's Mahdi forces blocked roadways and bridges with burning tires, vehicles and trash. Visibility was less than 300 meters anywhere in the city. They began to attack American vehicles on patrol throughout Sadr City - some were protecting Shia worshipers (Holy Arbayeen) while others were escorting city government vehicles.
A battle raged across Sadr City. Insurgents assaulted American troops while looters and mobs formed and stormed through the streets. Word spread quickly across the American FOBs that there was trouble.
Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment were ambushed with RPGs and pinned down and dying. While fighting off an attack himself, the Commander of the 2/5th, LTC Volesky, called for help. A Quick Reaction Force (QRF) was formed of volunteers - their mission was to go out and rescue the American troops.
Casey Sheehan's Sergeant asked for volunteers. Sheehan had just returned from Mass. After Sheehan volunteered once, the Sergeant asked Sheehan again if he wanted to go on the mission. According to many reports (and according to his own mother), Casey responded, "Where my Chief goes, I go."
The QRF was launched. Not long after entering the Mahdi area, the QRF was channeled onto a dead-end street where the roofs were lined with snipers, RPGs, and even some militia throwing burning tires onto the vehicles. The Mahdi blocked the exit and let loose with everything they had.
Sheehan's vehicle was hit with multiple RPGs and automatic-weapons fire.
Specialist Casey Sheehan and Corporal Forest J. Jostes were killed.
A second QRF was formed - all volunteers - to go rescue the first. Specialist Ahmed Cason was hit in the second QRF - but kept fighting until he bled to death.
Seven men died with Casey Sheehan on Sunday, April 4th, 2004.
They were Spc. Robert R. Arsiaga, Spc. Ahmed Cason, Sgt. Yihjyh L. "Eddie" Chen, Spc. Stephen D. Hiller, Spc. Israel Garza, Cpl. Forest J. Jostes, and Sgt. Michael W. Mitchell.
It was Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday commemorates the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem. Back then, the palm frond was a symbol of victory - laid beneath the feet of those of the highest honor and triumph. Some believe it was this honor fit for a king that forced Jesus's enemies to act and crucify him.
In recognition of Casey, the Catholic Chapel at Fort Hood, Texas (where Sheehan was stationed) named the Knights of Columbus chapter the "Casey Austin Sheehan Council".
Casey also received the Bronze Star for his Valor that day.
Palm fronds for the most honored.
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