In Memoriam

SGt John Paul Castro

Clarksville, TN

Home Award Program Recipient

Army Sergeant John Paul Castro was born in Andrews, Texas, the middle child of three siblings to Carmen and David Castro. He attended Andrews High School where he excelled in baseball and football and played the tuba for the school band. After his graduation in May, 2004, John enlisted in the Army with his best friend and attended basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. Following basic training, both enlistees were originally routed to Fort Hood, Texas, but at the last moment, John’s orders were changed and he was assigned to Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

While assigned to Delta Company, Specialist Castro would serve three combat tours: Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) from September 2005-October 2006; Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) March 2007 to March 2008, and another OEF tour from August 2010 to April 2011. He was wounded during his first and second tours and received two Purple Heart awards, yet returned to active duty after each incident. The injuries Specialist Castro sustained from an IED (improvised explosive device) blast while on his first tour resulted in a six-month rehabilitation period during which he had to learn to walk again. The Soldier’s recovery was the stuff of legend, and Sergeant Castro became somewhat of a local celebrity, receiving an outpouring of flowers, well wishes, and visits from community members rallying behind him.

In the fall of 2007 John was reintroduced to Delia Butas by her stepfather, a fellow Soldier who worked with John; Delia and John had known each other but only casually over the years. At first, Delia, a single mother with a young son, Kamren, was hesitant to date a Soldier, but John was smitten-and persistent. The couple dated for about a year, and John proposed in a park with a “ring pop.” They were then married on November 14, 2008, while John was on R&R from his first deployment to Afghanistan. John loved Kamren as he would his own child and could not wait to grow their family, and in July 2009, he and Delia were blessed with a daughter, Natalia. Off duty, John enjoyed outdoor adventures with his family, including fishing, nature walks, camping and going for long car rides. He also loved playing the guitar and singing karaoke at family get-togethers.

In the fall of 2010, John was promoted to the rank of sergeant, an accomplishment that gave him immense pride; but Delia knew this meant added responsibilities and increased on-the-job risks as well. She and John talked about the “what- ifs,” of him being severely injured or worse, killed, yet she also understood his unwavering commitment to protect his country and save innocent lives.

Sadly, just months later on April 22, 2011, Delia would all too painfully realize the full sacrifice of her husband’s honor to his country. While talking on the phone with her brother-in-law about her upcoming summer plans, Delia recognized the uniformed men at her door from the Base Casualty Assistance Office. They then delivered the heartbreaking news: John was killed in action in Paktika province, Afghanistan when his unit came under attack by small arms fire. Sergeant Castro was buried in West Kentucky Veterans Cemetery on May 3, 2011 with full Military Honors. His military awards and decorations include: the Bronze Star Medal; Purple Heart Medal; Army Commendation Medal (with combat V for Valor); Army Achievement Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal; Iraq Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon; North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

In the months since John’s death, Delia has continued to reside in the family’s townhouse, focusing on raising Kamren and Natalia and honoring her husband’s sacrifice. Admittedly, Delia never fully understood when John repeatedly told her, “I didn’t choose the Army. The Army chose me.” Now, recalling his prideful mantra gives her peace and comfort as a Gold Star Spouse that John’s time on earth was spent doing what he truly loved. Delia heard about Homes For Our Troops and the Home Award Program from the Army’s Survivor Outreach Coordinator.

She applied and was later approved to receive a mortgage-free home in Clarksville, Tenn. Together with Kamren, now 8, and Natalia, who is turning 4 in July, Delia says the family is not “moving on,” but “moving forward” in the healing process and have a place to call “home.” The children are excited that they will soon have their very own bedroom, a backyard to play in, and live in a neighborhood full of kids; they love the fact that the school and playground are nearby, too. For Delia, the home represents a chance to provide her family with some stability, and hopes of a happier future. Says Delia, “The last couple of years have been difficult and an emotional rollercoaster, but I think getting this home from Homes For Our Troops is a sign of great things to come for my children and me.”