An email received as a cc: earlier today. Posted with the permission of the writer:
Jessica, you and your family have my deepest sympathy. I offer my condolences.
For anyone who knows me, you probably know that the best time I ever had in the military was the 4 months I spent in Colombia in 2004. I spent nearly all of that time with Pablo Castro and can attribute many of my positive experiences there with Pablo. To look at us you would not think that someone like myself nor he would have much in common. Our physical statures were quite different. Obviously, everyone knows Pablo was a very tall, dark, and handsom, extroverted exemplar of an Army infantryman. I, of course, am much shorter, skinnier, and on appearance can seem kind of nerdy and introverted.
Well, Pablo thought the same of me the first time we ever met at the Parkhouse 101 Hotel in Bogota, Colombia. I recall sitting at the breakfast table with him one morning attempting to make small talk with him and he gave me the sort of begrudgingly respectful yet perceptibly cynical responses to my questions that often occurs between two men from different military services (Army vs. Air Force), and of different ranks (officer vs. enlisted). It wasn't until we were stationed further south in the jungle that he realized that we both share a great sense of adventure and had similar colorful senses of humor; in short we both love to 'work hard, and play hard'.
My memories of him include him scooping me up out of river by my BDU collar and into a boat during jungle survival training, watching a Shakira concert in our luxurious house supplied by the US Embassy, going out salsa dancing every night of the week, playing cards and drinking the night away, watching him do his duty unswervingly by grabbing his pistol and confronting strangers one night when I informed him that some suspicious looking people were lurking in front of our house just a little too long, learning from him how to tie various knots with parachute rope, and watching him laugh out loud singing along to 'Ludakris' during our frequent trips along the treacherous highway between Bogota and Melgar. He is also the person who gave the nickname 'T-Bone'.
Pablo kept in touch with me ever since then with his frequent funny emails that he sent to the people he cared about. We also on occasion conversed over email to catch up. I worried about him when he went to Iraq and was glad to know he came home safely. And now I am sad that I never got a chance to get down to Miami to visit him.
The reason Pablo and I became friends was in no small measure due to his ability to let down his rough and tumble exterior on occasion to reveal a down to Earth core capable of laughing at himself with a healthy dose of self-deprecation. We played geography trivia once and he referred to himself as not being particularly 'book smart' and I reminded him of all the things he knew and could do better than me or most people. He was generous; one day an old, and battle-torn man, a Colobian veteran of the Korean War (who know the Colombians were our allies during the Korean War?), walked into our encampment asking for donations to help other such veterans. Pablo unhesitatingly offered up cash. We followed his lead and contributed as
Nevertheless, I am heartened by the fact that Pablo lived authentically and passed through this life unapologetically, squeezing every last bit of excitement the world has to offer. I believe more of us should do the same.
Pablo touched more lives than I think anyone, including he, will ever know.
I miss him already.
Tyrone A. West, Captain, USAF