During the Friday, November 6, 2015, Pierce Football game versus Durham, students, staff, and community members honored one of their own.
Born on Memorial Day, Pfc. Justin Casillas always knew he wanted to follow in the footsteps of family members and serve in the armed forces. In 2008, after graduating from high school, Pfc. Casillas joined the US Army.
Following his basic training, Pfc. Casillas was stationed at Ft. Richardson, Alaska for where he later deployed to COP Zerok, Afghanistan and served with the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.
Pfc. Casillas died on July 4, 2009, while carrying a wounded soldier after a surprise attack on a combat post in the Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan.
Pfc. Casillas grew-up in Dunnigan, California where he attended Pierce High School in Arbuckle. He was an active FFA and FBLA Member, played on the Baseball and Football Team.
PHS Former Varsity Coach, Roy Perkins said, “Occasionally, you get a small kid like Justin, who get everything he can get out of the game because his effort is there.”
Perkins shared a memory when Pfc. Casillas, with a sprained ankle, picked up the ball and ran the ball; where it took three opposing teammates to tackle Pfc. Casillas.
“Honor and Remember”
Having never known Pfc. Casillas, Arbuckle community member, Debbie Charter has built a relationship with the Casillas family and continues to honor his memory.
Unknowingly, Charter presented Pfc. Casillas with his High School Diploma.
“I had someone taking pictures for me, and it wasn’t until after his death when I developed the camera and came across his photo.” said Charter.
Charter then contacted Pfc. Casillas’ mother, Donna.
“I contacted her and gave her copies of his picture,” said Charter, “that’s how our friendship began.”
Later, Charter was instrumental in getting Pfc. Casillas name added to the monument at the Arbuckle Veteran’s Memorial Park.
One day, Charter received a phone call from a representative from ‘Honor and Remember’.
“They had been trying to contact Donna for several years,” said Charter, “that’s when I contacted her and said, ‘your dear son Justin is once again bringing us together.’”
Charter presented Pfc. Casillas’ mother Donna, his Sisters Victoria and Ashley, with a personalized ‘Honor and Remember’ Flag and Certificate.
“Thank you Justin, your dedication to your country will never be forgotten,” said Charter.
Pfc. Casillas has also received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, War on
Terrorism Service Metal, Good Conduct Metal, and the Purple Heart.
For more information about the “Honor and Remember” flag, visit