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Patriot Guard honors Willmar, Minn., soldier's service

Members of the Patriot Guard served as honor guards at the funeral on Monday for Russell Castro, 37. The Minnesota National Guard soldier and father of three died Sept. 23 after being diagnosed about one year ago with leukemia. He had served a 16-month deployment in Iraq with the "Red Bulls," and his unit is currently deployed in Kuwait. (Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny)

WILLMAR -- Two dozen Patriot Guards remembered the service of Russell Castro to his country by serving as honor guards at his funeral Monday at Bethel Lutheran Church in Willmar.

Castro, 37, of Willmar, died Sept. 23 after being diagnosed about one year ago with leukemia.

Castro was proud of his service to country and the military, and family members felt it would be appropriate if the Patriot Guard served at his funeral.

"My husband would have been smiling,'' said his widow, Dawn. The Guard's presence meant no less to his survivors.

"It made me cry,'' said Dawn of her appreciation for their presence.

Castro had joined the Minnesota National Guard in 2003. He served with the 1st Brigade, 34th Infantry "Red Bulls'' in Iraq. He served a 16-month deployment in Iraq along with six months of training in Mississippi.

Members of his unit are currently serving in Kuwait and held a memorial service there as the service took place in Willmar. The service in Willmar was recorded and will be sent to the troops in Kuwait.

Castro was currently enrolled in Ridgewater College for an associate degree in welding. He remained a member of the Guard and might possibly have been deployed with his unit were it not for his illness.

He is survived by his wife, Dawn, and three children: Brianna Jo, 17; Sierra Dawn, 15; and Tre Devon, 11.

Patriot Guard members at the service said they respond to all requests from military families. Some of the Patriot Guard members came from locations such as Alexandria, and some took off time from work to be present.

Speaking outside the church, they emphasized that their service on Monday was small compared to what Castro and other troops have given by their service.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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