Family, friends, community mourn fallen Soldier
November 19, 2009
- Friends remember NCO killed in Fort Hood shooting.
- Staff Sgt. Justin DeCrow of Evans, Ga. was at Hood preparing to deploy.
- "He was a caring instructor, a great noncommissioned officer and a strong motivator," Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Riley said.
On Nov. 9, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hutchings, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Riley and Sgt. 1st Class Donald Chazelle, all from 551st Signal Battalion, went to their favorite Chinese restaurant for lunch. It's something they've done countless times before, but this time, there was a special meaning behind it. This time, they went in memory of Staff Sgt. Justin DeCrow, their friend who used to always join them there.
DeCrow, 32, of Evans, Ga., was one of the 13 killed in the shooting incident at Fort Hood Nov. 5. A satellite communications operator-maintainer, he had been assigned to a Signal unit at Fort Hood since September, and was to be deployed to Iraq soon. Before that, DeCrow was stationed on Fort Gordon, first to attend the training course for his job and later as an instructor in the satellite communications division for the 447th Signal Battalion and the 551st Signal Battalion, as well as a platoon sergeant with the 235th Signal Co.
"He was a caring instructor, a great noncommissioned officer and a strong motivator," Riley said. "I don't think he received the recognition he deserved for all that he did. I hope I can be half the NCO he was."
Since DeCrow's death, many of his fellow Soldiers and former students have echoed Riley's sentiments. A Facebook memorial page was set up in his honor so that those who knew him can post photographs or reminisce about their time together. The message on the top of the page reads, "For all of those that lived and worked with Justin, those of us fortunate enough to call him a friend."
DeCrow's wife, Marikay recently posted her own message to the page.
"Thank you so much for sharing all of your wonderful memories. It is such a comfort to know that he touched so many lives in so many ways," she said. "[Our daughter] Kylah and I appreciate all of the kindness and support that we've received. He truly was one in a million, and we love him so much."
Like Marikay, Hutchings, Riley and Chazelle prefer to remember DeCrow as a friend, not just a Soldier or co-worker.
He was the funniest man I ever met," Hutchings said. "You couldn't be mad around him. He would walk into a room and everyone just lit up."
Chazelle summed up his friends sentiments. "He's someone I'm never going to forget," he said.
"Staff Sgt. Decrow was a true family man; he was dedicated to his wife, daughter and the community around him. Despite the long hours that he worked as an Instructor/squad leader he dedicated much of his free time to the Golden Harvest Food Bank and the local 4-H club. Staff Sgt. Decrow always gave his all, he loved the military and Soldiering, he lived by setting the example and could always be counted on professionally and personally," said Sgt. 1st Class Shino Tomoji, a colleague and friend from Fort Gordon.
DeCrow graduated from Plymouth High School, Plymouth, Indiana, in 1996, and married his high school sweetheart, Marikay that spring. He joined the Army a few months later.
"He always wanted to be a Soldier," Marikay said.
Over the course of his career, DeCrow touched many lives both professionally and personally, as attested both on his FaceBook memorial and through the recollections of his friends and family.
"His infectious charm and wit always put others at ease," Marikay said. "He will be greatly missed."