Dedication ceremony honoring LCpl. Casey Casanova who was killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom

About a hundred people gathered at the Military Armed Forces Museum at Camp Shelby today for a ceremony to dedicate an exhibit to the only female Mississippi killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Camp Shelby Joint Force Training Center hosted a memorial event and statue unveiling in honor of fallen Marine Lance Corporal Casey Casanova.

Casanova is a McComb native who made the ultimate sacrifice during a combat operation at Al Karmah, Iraq on May 2, 2008. Childhood friend Ashleigh Copeland said, “The Marine Corps core values, honor, courage, commitment, she was all of those things. Even when we were kids, even as a twelve-year-old, she had more integrity than most of us. She sought out people, she sought out people that needed to be loved, and needed to be cared for and served them, and that’s what she did until her last day.”

Casanova was the only female service member from Mississippi killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and one of only three in all operations during the intensive global War on Terror.

Casanova was survived by her mother, Paula Carruth. “Freedom is not free. This is a real thing, okay. You know, I don’t think people really understand, you can’t take anything in this life for granted. And I’m grateful. I’m grateful for those four individuals. I’m grateful for today, and getting to be with a lot of people I love and that loved Casey. And it’s just a day to celebrate.”

Carruth decided to donate her daughter’s uniform, equipment, and other memorabilia to the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum at Camp Shelby.

Along with the presentation of her artifacts, a bust was also given to her by Sculptor Cliff Leonard. The bust of Casanova was revealed during the ceremony, which was the first time her mother saw it as well. Leonard said, “I wanted to be able to have something concrete for the family to have, for them to kind of live on. As corny as that may sound, I want them to have something they can touch, and some of them do. They come back and tell me they hug it or kiss it or touch it frequently, and it just means a lot.”

The purpose of the display and statue being unveiled today was to celebrate the Marine Corps’ birthday which is a significant and special day for Marines past and present.

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