PITTSBURGH, PA, US
U.S. Marine Corps
SGT, 3D BN 1ST MAR, (RCT-7, I MEF FWD), 1ST MAR DIV, CAMP PENDLETON, CA
05/12/2010, HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
Joshua Caskey, Joseph’s brother, also a Marine sergeant recovering from a traumatic brain injury suffered during service in Iraq, stood in front of his brother’s flag-draped casket and delivered a message.
“Joe, you died a hero, you sacrificed your precious life for this country,” he said, fighting back tears. “And for that,” Joshua added, his voice rising, “we will never forget.”
Joshua turned and embraced his other brother, Jeremy, as the roughly 125 people seated and standing in the Unity Baptist Church of Harlansburg wiped away tears and gently said “Amen.”
Sergeant Caskey, commander of his 50-member convoy, was killed after his vehicle hit an IED in Helmand Province, a notoriously dangerous part of Afghanistan. Growing up mainly in West View, Sergeant Caskey was the fourth Western Pennsylvanian to die in Afghanistan last month, which was the deadliest month in the 9 year war. Sergeant Caskey also served in Iraq in 2008.
The Caskey family have all seen service or are currently serving in the military.
The funeral for Sergeant Caskey brought the family together in a special way. Rev. Gerald Caskey, Joseph’s father is pastor of the church and delivered the eulogy. Joshua, 29, recounted memories of his younger brother, as did Jeremy, 32, who has 13 years of active duty in the Air Force and is currently studying to become a pastor.
Rev. Caskey told those gathered in the church that his son balanced a magnetic charm with a whole-hearted commitment to his country and the Marines, which he joined directly after graduating from North Hills High School in 2004. He was a strong and athletic “Marine’s Marine” who loved to lead and never asked his men to do something he wouldn’t do.
“Truly, Joe was a precious gift from our loving, heavenly Father. … This giving, fearless and faithful Marine touched more lives in his 24 short years than many do in a lifetime,” said Rev. Caskey. “His sacrifice was for you, his sacrifice was for me and his sacrifice was for America, which he so loved.”
With family and friends of all ages crammed into the church, Sergeant Caskey’s funeral was full of tears. But the mood was light when the Caskeys recounted stories, such as when Joseph cajoled his father to ride the Steel Phantom roller coaster at Kennywood. “It turned out to be more than I expected,” Rev. Caskey said, amid laughs.
Asserting that his brother had “a heart of gold,” Joshua named the Marines, Steelers, ’80s music, “Saved By The Bell” and texting as a few things Joseph loved — and “looking good at all times. I think he was really good at that. But what Sergeant Caskey loved most were his family, friends, comrades and girlfriend, Megan Clark, 23, of Shadyside.
Jeremy stressed in his remarks that his brother led a full life and, though he died young, he did not die in vain. “We do not ask why this happened. Instead, we ask what good will come of it,” he said.
Rev. Caskey said he appreciated how people were able to put aside ideological and political differences to celebrate his son’s life. “We don’t want this to be such a solemn” event. “This is about a human being, America.”