Justin M. DeCrow had been in the Army for 13 years

By Amy Goldstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 6, 2009 7:44 PM

At 32, Staff Sgt. Justin M. DeCrow had been in the Army for 13 years and -- with a wife, 13-year-old daughter and bothersome case of sleep apnea -- had decided it was time to become a civilian.

His mother, Rhonda Thompson, said Friday that DeCrow had returned over the summer from a year's deployment in South Korea to Evans, Ga., where he had built a house several years ago. His wife, Marikay -- who he had known since the start of elementary school -- had a business there teaching children to ride horses. He had lined up a job as an Army contractor at nearby Fort Gordon in his specialty, training younger soldiers in satellite communications.

But last month, Thompson said, DeCrow was told to report to work at Fort Hood until the paperwork for his medical discharge came through.

After anxious hours of trying to call her son and sending him text messages, Thompson received a call early Friday from her sobbing daughter-in-law. Justin had been shot. No, he wasn't one of the people in the hospital.

Thompson last heard from her son Saturday. "Happy Halloween. I love you," his final text message to her said. She wrote back: "Same to you. Love you back."

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