Faculty, friends and members of the community gathered Thursday evening to remember Patrick David Casey, a 33-year-old graduate student described as heartfelt, spirited and insightful.
More than 50 people attended the memorial held in Veteran’s Park at 22nd and G streets and said that even in his short time at GW, Casey made a lasting impact. The Afghanistan war veteran arrived in D.C. in early August to work toward a master’s at the Elliott School of International Affairs.
Ashley Andrews, chair of the Graduate Student Forum, gave opening remarks and said Casey had an impact everywhere he went.
“It sounds silly, but I remember just wanting to be his friend right away because he was so full of life,” Andrews said.
She said the community is feeling Casey’s loss, but will work together to heal.
The Clifton Park, N.Y. native was in tune with academics and had “curiosity in his eyes,” history professor Adam Howard said. Casey was a student he could always count on to be engaged, especially when material related to the Middle East.
Casey, who spoke Arabic and Pashto, returned from Afghanistan last year. He developed a passion for the Middle East earlier, when he worked for a computer company for six months in Israel.
Professor Mark Gaspar said Casey was “energetic, engaged and warm-spirited” in class.
“His keen understanding of complex issues was underpinned by his buoyant personality,” Gaspar said. “Patrick was a large man, but it was his spirit that filled the room.”
Elliott School graduate student Matt Hughes echoed Gaspar’s remarks, adding that Casey was a gracious person.
Casey was unforgettable because he had a remarkable spirit, Gaspar said, in addition to his towering 6-foot-4-inch build.
University President Steven Knapp said Casey’s death was a shock.
“As you can imagine, with all military families, when Patrick was serving in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army, every day and night [his family] dreaded the phone call to tell them that something had happened to their beloved son,” Knapp said. “Of course they never expected that it be only after he returned to the United States from the dangers of combat that something like this would occur.”
Casey, who returned from his Afghanistan post last year, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2006. A sergeant from the U.S. Army band “Pershing’s Own” played taps at the service.
Knapp also underscored the importance of community after tragedies such as Casey’s death, adding that GW is a family.
Gail Casey said last month that her son was a “big teddy bear.”
Casey was pronounced brain dead Sept. 27 and legally declared dead two days later, following an altercation that occurred just off campus early Sept. 23, during which he and other McDonald’s patrons got into a fight.
Metropolitan Police are investigating his death as a homicide. The D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner publicly released Wednesday that the manner of Casey’s death was a homicide resulting from blunt impact trauma.