The 35th Infantry Regiment Association salutes our fallen brother, 1LT Dimitri A. Del Castillo, who died in the service of his country on June 25th, 2011 in Kunar Province Afghanistan. The cause of death was listed as Small Arms. At the time of his death Dimitri was 24 years of age. He was from Tampa, Florida.
The decorations earned by 1LT Dimitri A. Del Castillo include: the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart,
Lt Del Castillo's awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Infantry Badge, Expert Infantry Badge, Parachutist Badge, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Overseas Ribbon, Army Good Conduct Medal and the NATO Medal.
1st Lt. Dimitri A. Del Castillo is survived by his wife, 1st. Lt. Kathleen "Katie" Pulliam-Del Castillo; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Carlos Del Castillo; grandparents, Dr. and Mrs. Hector Del Castillo of Houston and grandparents, Dr. and Mrs. Dimitri Filostrat of New Orleans, La.
West Point Funeral Services for Lt. Dimitri Del Castillo - July 8, 2011
Beautiful place, West Point.
The drive from my home was 170 miles through the congestion of New York City area traffic. But the last 25 miles or so were quiet and peaceful.
The little village outside the gate was idyllic. Something like Disney may of created to enhance a theme park.
Most of my drive was in sunshine but clouds grew more threatening as I approached the gate to West Point. As I pulled into the first security checkpoint the first of the rain began to fall. By the time I drove the half mile to the 2nd checkpoint it was raining rather heavily.
I was given my directions on how to get to the cemetery and through my windshield wipers I enjoyed the approximate 2 mile drive in past the dignified old buildings and the modern football stadium, the campus lake and the beautifully kept cadre residences until I reached the cemetery on my right.
Just past the cemetery was the entrance for Lot K where I was instructed to park for the ceremonies. From here a set of vans made many trips to ferry the attendees to the Catholic Chapel where the services were conducted.
As I pulled into Lot K and parked, the wind and rain intensified and the thunder boomed and lightning cracked all around. But as is my custom I was considerably early for the services and the view through my windshield was of the cemetery so I was at peace just sitting out the worst of the storm and hoping for the Family and friends that this would blow over before the funeral.
By 30 minutes to funeral time the wind had calmed and the thunder and lightning moved away but left behind a steady soaking rain. It was time to go. I caught a shuttle van that stopped right behind my car and was driven the half mile to the entrance of the Catholic Chapel.
Inside the chapel was about half full by this time. There was no sign of the family and if a Cacti escort was in attendance I could not pick him out through the sea of military uniforms in the chapel.
Many of the attendees wore the uniforms of cadets, of course, but there were many regular Army dress uniforms and even several members of the Navy as well as at least one Marine in attendance. And there were a fair amount of civilian attendees to be seen.
As the time came for the funeral service to begin the chapel filled almost completely. My guess would be that there were approximately 300 in attendance as the services began.
At exactly 1600 hours we were asked to rise and the casket was brought in by the rear entrance. The American flag draping the casket was removed at the rear of chapel and the casket was re-draped with a ceremonial cloth and then lead by a Catholic Priest the casket was rolled down the center aisle followed closely by Dimitri's Widow and his parents and brother and sister as well as other family members.
Services were opened with a prayer and then Dimitri's father and wife came to the podium to speak. Mr. Del Castillo (pronounce Del Cast T OH ) was remarkably composed as he told stories of his son's life and how proud Dimitri was serve our Country and how proud he (the father) was of Dimitri . [It is well known in our circles that hearing is not my best attribute but I gleaned what I could from the few words that I could comprehend.] Apparently from early childhood all of Dimitri's friends called him "Del" but the father and family always called him Dimitri. He was a star rugby play at West Point and won numerous awards during his time there. Mr. Del Castillo also told again the story that was found in most newspaper accounts of his death of how he remained on the radio directing support for his troops until he died and he told of the phone calls he got from Afghanistan from Dimitri's platoon Sgt who sobbed through most of the conversation but told the father of the events of the day and exactly what happened including the story of radio. He also said that he had received calls from Afghanistan from fellow officers of Dimitri offering their condolences and relating stories of just what a great person "Del" was.
(The widow) Katy Pullium-Del Castillo then took the podium. She told the story of how they had served in the same platoon in their West Point Class and how Dimitri had proposed to her on one of the training ranges in their senior year. She drew a couple of laughs from the attendees at some of her stories (but of course at least one of the attendees could not hear just what she said). And she explained how they had gone off and married in December of 2010 just before they were to both be deployed to separate units in Afghanistan. They had planned on having a more formal wedding ceremony for the family in July 2012 after they both returned from their deployments. And lastly she told about the last time she saw him.
Katy flew in from her own base in Afghanistan to see Dimitri on June 9, his 24th birthday. They were only able to spend a couple of hours together as Dimitri had to lead his men on an operation that day. She broke down as she told of the chopper that carried her back to her base and how Dimitri stood there on the ground and waved as he became smaller and smaller until finally she could no longer see him. All in all a very emotional moment for all in attendance and especially so as Mr. Del Castillo stepped in to comfort her.
An officer took the podium next to eulogize Dimitri. His stories (from my limited ability to hear them) seemed to range from West Point stories right down to the story of his time in Afghanistan. I was too far away to read a name tag or to even determine his rank. I wondered at the time if this was a Cacti but was never able to find him again in the crowds at the cemetery to determine this.
Then following the eulogy awards of a Bronze Star and the Purple Heart were made to the widow. A full Catholic funeral mass followed.
Nearly two hours later the services were concluded. The coffin was rolled back up the aisle proceeded by clergy and followed by the immediate family. At the rear of the church the ceremonial cloth was replaced again with the American flag and the casket was taken out and placed immediately in the waiting hearse. The rains had diminished somewhat but it was still a heavy drizzle and the family was rushed into waiting vans for the short drive to the cemetery.
I personally chose to walk the half mile back to the cemetery. The drizzle was steady but soothing at the same time as I made my walk past the cadre housing and across to the cemetery.
The grave site was very near Lot K parking and not more than 100 feet from where I had parked. I made the walk with time to spare before most of the attendees and the hearse and family arrived. Civilians all stood under their umbrellas while the military personnel all suffered the rain in quiet dignity.
As the hearse approached through the cemetery the rains became much heavier and remained that way through the cemetery services. The family was seated under a tent as was the casket as the ceremonies continued at the grave site.
Prayers were said. Taps were played and a 21 gun/rifle salute was given. An Army band played while completely exposed to the now driving rain. The father at one point walked forward to kiss the flag draped coffin.
The flag was removed and ceremoniously folded and then presented to the widow. (A second flag was presented to the Mother) And then the services were concluded.
The family were quickly escorted back into the vans as the rains came down even harder. Slowly the attendees just started to melt away in the rain. A small number of people queued up to walk past the casket that remained above the grave site. I joined this line as the last person and got to touch the coffin and say a short prayer for our young brother.
At 1830 hours, significantly soaked, I got back into my car to begin my journey home.
I had worried at my arrival that the rain might detract from the services but by the time I left last evening I was at peace with the weather and couldn't imagine the services being more dignified without it.
Doc H (Jim Hall)