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Farmington man presented with Veteran of the Year award

Charlie Casey lauded for work on behalf of other veterans

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Olena Erickson, president of the Farmington Rotary Club, and Charlie Casey hold Casey's Farmington Freedom Days Veteran of the Year plaque on Aug. 7, 2020, during a presentation ceremony at Vietnam Veterans Park in Farmington.
  • Rotary Club President Olena Erickson presented the award to Casey, a Maine native who has lived in Farmington on and off since 1980.
  • Casey was in the Air Force from 1962 to 1966.
  • Casey served as a Titan Two ICBM missile launch crewman while in the Air Force.

FARMINGTON — Charlie Casey's eyes widened when he saw a banner being unfurled during a small ceremony on Aug. 7 at Vietnam Veterans Park in Farmington that proclaimed his selection as the Farmington Freedom Days Veteran of the Year.

The Air Force veteran couldn't resist making a wisecrack.

"I'm trying to figure out how to hang it in my bedroom," he said, grinning.

The small ceremony held in Casey's honor may have been a few weeks overdue, but that didn't dampen the spirit of the event. The Farmington Rotary Club normally announces the recipient each year during its Electric Light Parade on July 4 in downtown Farmington, but the cancellation of that event this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a delay in Casey receiving his plaque.

Rotary Club President Olena Erickson presented the award to Casey, a Maine native who has lived in Farmington on and off since 1980. She noted that it was important to the organization to officially recognize Casey, even though the parade where each year's recipient is announced was not held this year.

"Just because the parade got cancelled, we still want to honor our veterans," she said.

Farmington Freedom Days Veteran of the Year recipient Charlie Casey holds his award while Elks Lodge Exalted Leader Tim Timmerman, center, and Chris Bodley, post commander of American Legion Post 93, display a banner proclaiming the award, during a ceremony on Aug. 7, 2020, at Vietnam Veterans Park in Farmington.

Casey joined the Air Force after graduating from high school in 1962, serving as a Titan Two ICBM missile launch crewman until 1966, when he earned an honorable discharge. He later attended classes at the University of Arizona before settling into a 50-year career as a safety professional in different industries across various states.

Casey moved to Farmington initially in 1980, during which time he met the woman who would become his wife, Cynde. Casey's work later took him away from Farmington, but he returned in 1988 before leaving again in 2002. He returned permanently in 2009 and retired from his career in 2019.

Casey said he had no inkling the award was coming his way until he was informed he had won it.

"I was thrilled — and very surprised," he said, though he added a good friend of his had "threatened" to nominate him for it several months ago.

"It's an honor, and I hope I represent the veterans of San Juan County well," he said.

Also on hand during the Aug. 7 ceremony in the park was Beverly Charley, a veterans service officer for the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services. Charley said her agency reaches out to various organizations early each year in search of nominees for the award, and a committee made up of representatives of various local businesses chooses the winner from a group of finalists.

The recipient must have been honorably discharged from the service, be a resident of San Juan County and be active in the community, she said.

Casey met all those criteria — especially the last one, Charley said. She listed his service in various veterans-related causes and said he can always be counted on to lend a hand.

Charlie Casey is all smiles after receiving the Farmington Freedom Days Veteran of the Year award from the Farmington Rotary Club on Aug. 7, 2020, at Vietnam Veterans Park in Farmington.

"He's on it, from the beginning to the end," she said. "… He's a fighter."

Charley, a former recipient of the award herself, said she had considered nominating Casey for the award. But as it turned out, that wasn't necessary, as others recognized the need for him to be recognized.

"Charlie's definitely been a go-getter," she said. "I was really happy to see his name come up in a nomination, then we received a second nomination. He's always asking, 'How do we finish the mission, and do it with grace and honor?'"

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.