DALTON -- It was 1968 in Vietnam and 2nd Lt. Michael J. Casey Sr.'s company was under heavy attack with little ammunition to return fire. The Dalton-native acted quickly, rushing in to distribute weap ons and evacuate injured fellow Marines. Casey was able to provide the necessary aid, but in the process he was struck by a burst of enemy fire, killing him at age 23.
On Saturday morning, 75 townspeople, members of his family and a handful of those who served with him gathered on Route 8 to memorialize his bravery by dedicating a bridge over the Housatonic River in his honor.
At the ceremony, members of his platoon described a courageous, steady leader who they won't soon forget.
"We are old men now, our sight has grown dim, our limbs lack the strength and vigor of our youth and our gate is now halted and unsteady -- yet our memory of him is as crisp and vivid as if he had just left; we will keep our memory of him for the rest of our days," said Wayne Mathias.
Casey, born in 1944, attended St. Joseph High School. He later attended the University of Massachusetts, where he played football as a walk-on member of the team. He's buried in Dalton's Fairview Cemetery, a stones-throw away from his childhood home.
Getting the Route 8 bridge between Dalton and Hinsdale dedicated in his honor was a four-year process, initiated by his brother Pat Casey and the Dalton Post of the American Legion. With the backing of town officials, a bill was pushed through the state Legislature by Sen. Benjamin B. Downing and Rep. Paul Mark. Gov. Deval Patrick signed the legislation clearing the way for the ceremony early last April.
"Dedications like this usually take awhile to accomplish," said Tom Callahan, a childhood friend of Casey's who served as the master of ceremonies at the event. "The persistence of Pat over the last four years, all local and state officials involved, as well as Pat's friends, Dalton Selectman Stu Sargent and Debbie Smith, have given us this opportunity today."
Casey's son, Michael Casey, attended the ceremony with five of his father's brothers and sisters. He said he appreciated that the town took the time to honor his father.
"It means a lot that everyone does recognize his sacrifice," he said.
The Marine Reserve Train ing Center in Chicopee was dedicated to Casey in 2004, when it was re-named the Second Lieutenant Michael J. Casey Marine Reserve Train ing Center.
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