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One of 1873 regulars

Casey Sheehan sold shoes. When careless customers left soiled nylon socks or shoebox packing materials on the floor, he’d clean them up. When kids purposefully swapped shoes and put them in different boxes, he’d reunite the correct mates. He also emptied garbage, restocked shelves, swept stockroom floors, and completed various other mundane tasks that come with a job in retail. I know this because for two years we worked together at a low-end department store called Mervyn’s in our California hometown.

Like most employees at our store, Casey wasn’t great with customers. He was shy and sometimes awkward, and could be unfriendly to clientele and co-workers alike. All reasons, I thought, that he eventually left the shoe department and started working in the back room, a job code-named "logistics," where he concentrated on tracking inventory and replenishing stock. On logistics, Casey roamed the cavernous back rooms alone most days stuffing new products, such as towels and sheet sets and soap dispensers, onto wooden shelves, visiting the store’s various departments to deliver goods or conduct price checks. Yet Casey and I still had our problems. When I’d call him on our store-issued walkie-talkies to request assistance, he’d rarely respond with a sense of urgency. I never thought the guy liked me very much.

Bronwyn Garrison, my best friend’s wife, dated Casey in high school, where they both took theater classes and performed in a staging of an obscure play, Good Morning Ms. Dove. Garrison says that Casey was an Eagle Scout and an altar boy. He played video games and liked Star Trek.

As Casey’s mother, Cindy Sheehan, prepares to resume her protest on a dusty roadside in Crawford, Texas, people across America have divided into two camps: those who put Cindy on a pedestal, and those who say she’s exploiting her son’s sacrifice to advance her own political agenda (or that she’s being exploited by the left). But for those who actually knew one of the soldiers killed in Iraq — even if he was a guy in the shoe department who didn’t like you very much — Casey Sheehan’s mom is performing a service in the absence of the coffins.

Casey never struck me as anything other than a regular guy. There’s nothing wrong with that, and for once in America we should celebrate a hero for what he really was. There were 1872 soldiers just like him.

Issue Date: August 26 - September 1, 2005
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