Don Penner holds a photo taken of himself and Casey Greene during a hunting trip in October 2002 when they were 13 years old. Greene, a specialist in the U.S. Army Rangers, Second Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was wounded in Wardak Province in Afghanistan on Saturday morning, local time. Greene and Penner, both 2007 Moffat County High School graduates, have been friends since they were 7.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Don Penner holds a photo taken of himself and Casey Greene during a hunting trip in October 2002 when they were 13 years old. Greene, a specialist in the U.S. Army Rangers, Second Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was wounded in Wardak Province in Afghanistan on Saturday morning, local time. Greene and Penner, both 2007 Moffat County High School graduates, have been friends since they were 7.

Army Ranger with Craig ties injured Saturday in Afghanistan

photo

Casey Greene

Quotable

“This event just solidified the fact that he was willing to do anything for his country and for those that he cared about.”

— Don Penner on U.S. Army Ranger specialist and his friend of 15 years, Casey Greene

About every three days, Don Penner would get on Facebook and chat with his friend, Casey Greene, a specialist with the U.S. Army Rangers.

And Penner always asked his fellow Moffat County High School graduate the same question.

“Every time I talked to him, I would say, ‘Hey, man, are you staying safe?’” said Penner, who lives north of Craig. “And he would just say, ‘I’m trying to, but it’s hard.’”

Penner had good reason to ask. Greene, 22, was stationed in Afghanistan and serving his third deployment.

A few weeks before, Greene described how he’d narrowly missed a bullet while he was walking from his room to the dining hall, Penner said.

“He seemed kind of sure that he was going to get hit at some point,” he added.

Then, this weekend, Penner got a call from Greene’s stepfather, Corey Wagner. Penner’s classmate, his confidante and the man who always knew how to lighten someone else’s day, had been shot when his unit was attacked by insurgents in Afghanistan’s Wardak Province.

“The first thing that went through my mind was what I told Casey the last time I saw him,” Penner said.

It was the same thing Penner always told his childhood friend: Don’t get hit.

‘We were terrified’

Greene was injured Saturday in Wardak province, Afghanistan. He suffered abdominal injuries, has undergone two surgeries and is expected to make a full recovery, his grandmother Marylou Wisdom said.

She was at the post office Saturday sending Greene a package when she got the call.

“Your mind goes into overdrive,” she said. “We were terrified is a short way of putting it.”

The same attack that injured Greene also took the life of his team leader, Sgt. Tyler N. Holtz, 22, of Dana Point, Calif.

He was killed when insurgents attacked their unit with small arms fire, a news release from the U.S. Department of Defense reported.

“Poor Casey keeps asking about him,” Wisdom said. “He doesn’t know yet that he didn’t make it.”

On Wednesday morning, she was preparing to visit Greene at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

So too was Penner. He and Greene have supported each other during turbulent times, and this time is no different, Penner said.

Anatomy of a friendship

Penner and Greene first met each other when they were 7 years old.

Their friendship wasn’t unlike the close bond that is wont to develop between boys of a certain age. They liked to play war with toy guns or play war-themed video games, Penner said, and they had the occasional sleepover.

But, where many childhood friendships dissolve with time or distance, Penner and Greene’s did not.

“Casey and I have been through some strenuous life events, especially on his part,” Penner said.

And that, he said, is why their friendship has survived.

“I was almost like his brother,” Penner said, adding, “We were the ones who talked to each other about this stuff.”

The two graduated Moffat County High School in 2007. Later, when Penner was a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Greene was working in Craig, the two talked of enlisting in the Army together.

But, here, their paths diverged.

Penner joined the ROTC and is now a second lieutenant in the National Guard. Greene “wanted to be the best of the best,” Penner said, so he enlisted with the Army Rangers.

“Casey is one of the toughest people I’ve ever met in my life,” Penner said. “He’s an extremely resilient individual and he always knows how to make other people happy, even when the situation’s not a happy one.”

Greene has always been a hero in Penner’s eyes, he said. And that, like their friendship, remains the same now.

“This event just solidified the fact that he was willing to do anything for his country and for those that he cared about,” Penner said.

Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1793 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com.

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Comments

cmawest 2 years, 6 months ago

I AM GETTING A LITTLE MORE THAN MAD ABOUT THE WAY THE GOVERNMENT IS DOING THESE KIDS TODAY.

WHEN THEY SENT US TO VIET NAM WE WENT FOR 6 MONTHS (NAVY) OR ONE YEAR (ARMY, MARINES) THEN SENT US HOME -- (ONLY RAMBO DID 4 TOURS IN VIET NAM.)

TODAY THEY JUST KEEP SENDING THESE KIDS BACK, OVER AND OVER, AND OVER. THIS REALLY NEEDS TO STOP. THE TROUBLE WITH WARS IS THAT WE FIGHT THEM WITH THE VERY BEST WE HAVE.

WE PROVED IN KOREA AND VIET NAM THAT YOU CANNOT WIN A WAR WHEN THE GOOD GUYS AND THE BAD GUYS LOOKED EXACTLY ALIKE. AND FOLKS, HOLY WARS CAN NEVER BE WON. YOU CAN'T FIGHT AN ENEMY THAT WANTS TO DIE.

I WILL PERSONALLY VOTE FOR WHOEVER GUARANTEES TO PULL THESE KIDS OUT OF THERE, BE HE DEMOCRAT, REPUBLICAN, OR INDEPENDENT.

I'D EVEN VOTE FOR OBAMA BIN LADEN HIMSELF IF HE PULLED THOSE KIDS OUT OF THERE. WAR IS ONE THING, BUT WE NEED A GOAL, I THOUGHT THAT WAS TO GET BIN LADEN. HELLO !!! WE GOT HIM.

WE NEED TO DRILL A HOLE IN EVERY ACRE IN AMERICA AND FIND ENOUGH OIL THAT WE CAN TELL THEM OPEC COUNTRIES TO BITE US ! THEN WE CAN STOP FIGHTING FOR OIL AND CALLING IT ANYTHING ELSE.

SORRY FOR THE RANT, BUT I'M REALLY GETTING TIRED OF SEEING GOOD KIDS GET HURT FOR NO REASON.

HANG IN THERE MARY LOU, WERE PRAYING FOR HIM.

D.C.C.

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ColoGeezer 2 years, 6 months ago

cmawest - I'm pretty sure I'm no Rambo but I did four tours in Vietnam. I know of many of my fellow soldiers who did multiple tours also. We did so out of a sense of duty, honor, and dedication. I'm sure there were other reasons too but that is what I remember from my friends. There is no comparing Vietnam to Iraq or Afghanistan. The wars are very different and separate. The military has evolved into a much different, and better, creature. Now, I agree that we need to get the young people out of the wars that we don't need to be in. However, most of the military men and women that I have talked to, who have served multiple tours, have said that they want to go and feel that they are doing something worthwhile.
Whatever the reason, I am proud of our young people and their decisions.

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cmawest 2 years, 6 months ago

wow ! you had to be an officer.

i have spent a lot of time working with the DAV at the grand jct. veterans hospital. i get to see what these kids are going through. it took 15 years to see viet nam homeless vets. its taking 6 months to see them now. PTSD is horrible with these kids. don't tell me it is a different war, any time our very best is dying or getting maimed in a war that cannot be won, its the same war. if you did 4 tours you must have been a really good volunteer. they would have to had captured me and dragged me kicking and screaming back to that war. a C130 full of body bags visits me in my sleep, what visits you ? i am very proud of my service, and while i certainly did not do 4 tours, i came back with my share of problems. hopefully by accepting a full time position with the DAV i can do my part to help these kids. i don't care how many tours you did, i only care that these kids get back in better shape than we did. no disrespect meant to you or your service.

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Change 2 years, 6 months ago

It is time to bring home our troops -- I am very proud of them for what they are doing. There have been some horrific injuries and too many of our service personnel have died. I don’t want to have to wait until 58,000+ have died and need to have their names on another wall. I agree that we should use our own resources, and quit buying from our “so-called friends” in the Middle East and start taking care of the citizens in the USA – all the money that has been “lost” to contractors, bribe funds, etc. Although I am not an isolationist, I am ready to end these wars, close down bases, and put our resources to a much better use.

I think most of us agree with cmawest. I know too many people who have their names on the Vietnam Memorial, too many men who have problems from what they experienced, and have cried a lot of tears at too many funerals, not to want to see these wars ended NOW. If these wars had an ongoing draft, and if we saw all of the flag covered caskets on a daily basis, these wars would be over in a few days. None of us want to relive the past, and if we haven’t learned anything from Vietnam, then we will continued to be doomed over and over.

God Bless America and God Bless our Troops!

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