Scottsdale soldier heading to Afghanistan amid uncertainty, Taliban threats

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by Carey Peña

azfamily.com

Posted on March 15, 2012 at 1:22 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 15 at 2:43 PM

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- “It takes a really strong person to leave your family and, you know, just be there,” says Scottsdale resident Sheena Castle.

Castle sat on her couch, holding her newborn baby while tears streamed down her face.

“I know that he’s doing good for the rest of us so that we can all be safe.”

She’s talking about her husband, PFC Michael Castle. He is part of an Army Airborne unit about to go into Afghanistan -- at a time of great uncertainty.

This week the Taliban vowed to behead any American in Afghanistan as retaliation for the shooting rampage allegedly at the hands of a U.S. soldier.The 38-year-old soldier, who has not yet been publicly identified, is believed to be suffering from a traumatic brain injury.  He left the base in the middle of the night wearing night-vision goggles and walked to a nearby village where he is accused of killing 16 Afghans – many of them children – while they slept.

From the White House, President Barack Obama said, “The United States takes this as seriously as if these were our own citizens, our own children.  We are heartbroken over the loss of innocent life.”

The administration has called for a swift investigation and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who flew to Afghanistan this week, said if convicted the soldier could face the death penalty.

Back in Scottsdale, Sheena Castle says her heart sank when she heard the news.

“I think it is really unfortunate that something would make him go and kill innocent people which is not our way of doing things – but we don’t know what was going through his mind," she said.

The shooting comes on the heels of another incident that sparked outrage across Afghanistan.

Last month, U.S. soldiers near Kabul burned copies of the Quran in an effort to dispose of books prisoners were reportedly using to communicate with one another. The Quran burning – which U.S. commanders called unintentional – triggered violent protests, a lockdown of the U.S. Embassy and attacks that led to the deaths of six U.S. soldiers.

Taken together, these two episodes are fueling increased concern that the decade-long fight in Afghanistan may be unwinnable. That thought isn’t sitting well with Sheena Castle. She told 3TV that she believes in the mission her husband is going there to fight.

"It’s almost like they were waiting for this to happen," Castle said of the Taliban’s threats. "Now they have another excuse to do something like 9/11.”

That, says Sheena Castle, is exactly what U.S. troops – like her husband – are risking their lives to prevent.

While Castle admits she is feeling great anxiety and fear over her husband’s deployment, she knows this is where he wants to be. “And,” she said through heavy tears, “I am so proud of him for that”.

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