Capt. Michael Casey

Capt. Michael Casey

Capt. Michael Casey was the youngest of seven children born to Bertha and John Wesly Casey. OMA Alumnus Mike Casey was killed in action in Vietnam, and his story is told by his sisters, honorary Cadets Bonnie Gooch and Joyce Moore.

Casey grew up in an Oklahoma family of patriotic Americans – his father, a brother in the U.S. Navy, a brother and brother-in-law in the U.S. Air Force. He was blessed to live most of his life in the beautiful Cookson Hills, the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. In 1962, he told his older sister, Bivra, he would like to attend the Oklahoma Military Academy.

“I adored Mike and investigated his request to attend the West Point of the Southwest,” she said.

Casey attended OMA 1962-1966, two years of high school and two years of college. He became a dedicated student and immersed himself in the campus life at the academy. He was involved in chapel counsel, the drill team, the Saber Society and marching band.

“Michael took his education seriously,” his sister said. “He was awarded the Outstanding Cadet Identification Disk, the highest individual award an OMA student receive.”

At Oklahoma State University, Casey was involved in ROTC and studied military science. In 1967, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He went to basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, and military occupational training as an infantry unit commander at Ford Hood, Texas.

“Michael said Army’s boot camp training was east, compared to OMA’s infantry training,” she said.

His military training at OMA prepared him to lead a platoon of 50 men at age 21. His leadership took him to the Republic of Vietnam in September 1968. In the jungles of Vietnam, he proved to be a man of great valor and a man who was prepared to give his life for others, if necessary, “lesson learned at OMA.”

He told his mother, “We will never leave a man in the jungle. That is some mother’s son.”

Upon arrival in Vietnam, he was promoted to first lieutenant and assigned to the Army’s 7th Squadron of the 17th Air Cavalry as an Aero-Rifle Platoon commander for A Troop, “Ruthless Riders.” In October 1968, he wrote that he had 31 men under his command: “The light observations and the Cobra go out and find the Vietcong, and if they need help, they load my men and me in the lift ships and we rappel from the helicopter to the ground in the general vicinity, and they guide us to the bad boys. Also, if one of the our ships is down, they insert us immediately, so we can secure ship.”

Casey participated in numerous battles with the enemy in Camp Enari,Ban Me Thout, and An Kha areas of Vietnam. During the latter part of 1968, A Troop operated near Pleiku and Southeast of Kontum. Action was heavy in the area. He described the nights as, “like the fourth of July; we just sleep through it!”

Casey was well-respected by the men with whom he served. A former commanding officer of A troop, Maj. H. Marshall, told his family how much Michael meant to his men: “The men of A Troop showed more respect for him than any other officer I ever met because he was one more among them.”

By the end of his tour, he was wounded several times: An explosion ruptured an eardrum while he was checking out a spider hole; a helicopter he was riding in was shot 11 times, and he was shot in the face and legs; another time he lost a front tooth when his head was slammed down on his vest during a rough helicopter landing in the jungle.

After completion of the required tour, he volunteered to an additional six months in country.He was granted leave and returned to Oklahoma to visit his family. While home he often talked about the men he served with, with heartfelt and deep brotherly love for his warrior comrades on and off the battlefield: “They are the greatest, they are the best.”

He realized the danger he was facing by going back, and spoke frankly with sister Doris, telling her he understood that the odds weren’t on his side.

“Everyone is going to die. I’m not afraid to die. We all do that," he told her. "I’ve lived with death for nearly a year. It’s not that we die, it’s how we die that matters.”

On Jan. 23, 1970, after 16 months in the Vietnam War, he gave his life for his country. He’d volunteered to go on a deep jungle mission to rescue some wounded comrades who had been ambushed and suffered casualties. He rode in back of a helicopter into a small jungle clearing covered with 10-foot-high elephant grass, and jumped out to help the wounded radio man onto the helicopter. Learning there was another wounded man still in the jungle, he and the other member went back to the edge of the jungle after him. After about 10 minutes, he returned with the second wounded comrade, then reentered the jungle after the third. Never considering any other course of action, he responded in his typical way, and gave his life for a friend.

Major Maxson wrote, “Mike was a man's man.”

Casey was given the Silver Star of Gallantry for his efforts. He was wearing his OMA ring when he was killed, proof that he loved everything about the OMA Academy.

Casey’s brother-in-law, Bill Moore, a highly decorated U.S. Air Force colonel, who served as a paratrooper and adviser to Major General W.C. Westmoreland at Fort Campbell, Kentuky, and later on the staffs of Gens. Westmoreland and Abrams in South Vietnam, said, “In my 33 years serving with all ranks in the Army and Air Force, including members from all three U.S. major military academies, I never observed a finer military officer with greater potential than Michael Cale Casey. His dedication, talent and OMA training were exceptional.”

Staff Sgt. Billman, squad leader and assistant platoon sergeant in Casey’s platoon in Vietnam, said they all really loved Michael, as a brother.

"We called him 'Blue.' I was very proud to have served with him. Blue was a very adventurous sort of a guy. He liked to climb into holes (bunkers) tunnels, and search 'hooches' himself. He was one hell of a soldier," Billman said.

Capt. Casey received almost all the honors a country can bestow upon their young soldiers. In his brief military career of 27 months – 16 in South Vietnam – he was awarded 16 medals and “perhaps Sequoyah County’s most decorated veteran,” according to the Sequoyah County Times newspaper.

“He was one of the finest leaders I have ever known. Capt. Casey would never ask his men to do something that he wouldn’t do himself," Micheal Ronsiek said. "He was spoken of and admired and highly respected by the superior ranking officers of the 7/17th Air Cavalry and was loved and admired by his men in A Troop. In the time that I knew him, he usually had a smile on his face, but when the chips were down, he was a serious young leader and his loss was a shock to all of us.”

He was laid to rest in the Sallisaw Cemetery with full military honors.

“Michael was the bright, twinkling light of his family and we treasure all the sweet, precious memories of him,” his sister said.

In 2011, they learned about the OMA Alumni Association dedicating a Cadet KIA War Memorial on Rogers State University campus in Claremore and decided it was the perfect place to donate his legacy and military memorabilia. In 2013 they came to OMA and were greeted by Dr. Danette Boyle and given a tour of the museum.

“We left in awe of its beauty and their hospitality, knowing that would be the home for Mike’s military memorabilia – also, thinking that would help to heal the void in the family’s broken hearts,” she said. “It’s an incredible honor to have his display setting and hanging with the displays of other great servicemen that attended OMA. He would be so humbled and proud while wearing his contagious, cute smile saying, 'Thank you, so much for your love and caring. God bless all of you!'”

The sisters have been blessed to attended each OMA Reunion since in 2013. The patriotic atmosphere on campus and inside the New Beginning OMA Museum is exceptional.

“I have loved meeting some of Mike’s ex-cadet friends and savoring their positive comments about Mike; it makes me smile and my heart happy! I treasure all of their friendships,” she said. “Being an honorary part of the OMA Alumni Reunions are two refreshing and delightful days of the year that I get to honor my brother and other OMA cadets that served in the military. That is a blessing and has filled many voids that I have felt in my heart, for our KIA little brother. The Casey family is grateful to be a part of the OMA Alumni Association.”

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