Hill chaplain meets U.S. President, honors brother

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HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Seven years after his brother’s death, a local Airman traveled to Washington D.C. for a reception honoring service members who have died while serving during conflicts since 2001.

In honor of his brother, Marine Corps Sgt. Joseph Caskey, 75th Air Base Wing Chaplain (Capt.) Jeremy Caskey traveled to the White House June 5. There, along with his parents and brother, he met with President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump during a reception for Gold Star families.

Chaplain Caskey, an Airman for 20 years, comes from a military family with both parents having served in the Army while another brother, Joshua, was severely injured in Iraq while serving as a Marine infantryman.

As a convoy commander, Sgt. Joseph Caskey was killed in Afghanistan June 26, 2010, after the vehicle he was driving was struck by an improvised explosive device in Helmand Province.

“I’m proud to be a part of a family that sees service as important,” Chaplain Caskey said.

Chaplain Caskey said the Gold Star family reception was bittersweet.

“We wouldn’t have been there if we wouldn’t have lost my brother, Joe, but good continues to come out of the sacrifice he made,” he said. “He believed in what he was doing.”

During his visit, Chaplain Caskey toured several rooms in the White House. In the Blue Room, he and his family spoke briefly with the president about Sgt. Caskey; the president and first lady expressed their sorrow for the family’s loss.

According to Chaplain Caskey, meeting the president was “surreal.”

“Here’s someone that you pray for every week and read about every day,” he said. “I grew up watching him in movies like Home Alone 2, watched The Apprentice when I was a young NCO, and played the Trump board game when I was a kid…and in the next room, there he is!”

Besides meeting the president, the Caskeys met Vice President Mike Pence, Army Lt. Gen. and U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, a retired Marine general whose son was killed in Afghanistan.

Chaplain Caskey appreciated talking with other Gold Star families and government and military leaders, but he also noted another highlight.

“I enjoyed talking with some of the staff who’ve been [in the White House] since LBJ,” he said. “That, to me, was interesting.”

The reception also included musical and vocal performances and a ceremony in which a candle was lit for each service member who was honored.

About 40 families attended.

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