By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Local family mourns soldier killed in Afghanistan
Memorial service set June 30 in Conyers
Katie Pulliam del Castillo and Dimitri del Castillo during a rare visit on June 9, Dimitri's birthday. - photo by Submitted Photo

Memorial Service

A memorial service for Dimitri del Castillo will be held Thursday, June 30, at 4 p.m. at Conyers First United Methodist and will be open to the public.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Fisher House,, a non-profit that provides lodging for military members and their families at VA medical centers.

 When Katie Pulliam del Castillo saw her battalion commander and chaplain at her doorstep, she knew that her worst fears had come true.

As a personnel officer for 325th Brigade Support Battalion in Nagahar Province, Afghanistan, the 2nd Lt. heard more than most people about the progress of the battle that raged last Saturday with Taliban insurgents in the mountains of Kunar Province near Pakistan.

The 2005 Salem High School graduate knew her husband, 2nd Lt. Dimitri del Castillo, the Rifle Platoon Leader for the 1st Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, was leading his men against Taliban insurgents there in Kunar Province.

She knew there were at least 28 wounded. She knew there was a casualty.

And then she knew that Dimitri had been killed in action.

Dimitri's platoon was pinned down after coming under small arms fire from multiple directions, said Katie's father Nate Pulliam, a Conyers resident, former real estate broker and West Point alum.

"Dimitri was attempting to get support on the radio. He was hit by one of the bullets flying around," he said. But Dimitri continued to radio for support.

"He died with the radio microphone in his hand."

Dimitri's body was flown back to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Monday. Katie flew out on Sunday and her parents, Nate and Patricia Pulliam, left England and arrived back in Conyers on Monday.


Marriage made in Heaven

Katie and Dimitri met during their second semester at West Point, where they graduated Class of 2009, and dated for three years. They both played rugby - she on the women's team and he on the men's.

For Katie, it was love after the first date. But "she had to work on him a bit," said her father.

"If there were ever two people who made the perfect couple, Katie and Dimitri were that couple," wrote Pulliam in a Facebook post to friends and family.

The two were married in a civil ceremony in December but planned to have a big church wedding in July 2012 in Tampa, where Dimitri's family lived, and a honeymoon in Mexico. After returning from Afghanistan, they wanted to start having children.

They were eventually both assigned to the same division at Schoefield barracks in Hawaii and were able to have a sort-of honeymoon period before their deployments, said Pulliam.

Being in Afghanistan just a 30-minute helicopter ride away from each other was both easier and harder for the young couple.

"She lived in anguish every day," said Katie's father. "In one sense it was easier for them to talk. But it was harder knowing the specific things he was doing."

Dimitri had recently turned 24 on June 9. Katie had been able to fly to his base and bring him a cake for a birthday visit - the last time she would ever see him.

Pulliam described Dimitri as a consummate professional who had applied to become a Greet Beret. "He loved his men and his platoon... He knew his life was in God's hands."

 "Dimitri was an incredible young man," he said. "This is a heartrending loss."

The 24-year-old who grew up in Katy, Tex., had spent holidays with the Pulliam family for the last four years, going to the beach, attending services at Conyers First United Methodist, and getting to know a number of people in Conyers. Katie's younger brother, Nathan, and Dimitri became as close as blood brothers.

 Pulliam said, "I was so happy he was going to be in my daughter’s life... He was a real playful guy. He was very personable. Everybody that met him loved him. He was tremendous athlete. He was a devout Christian. And madly in love with my daughter."

"It has crushed us," Pulliam continued. "We’re professional military, we know this can happen. But we loved Dimitri more than I can describe. We will continue to do so. (His family) will always be our family."

Dimitri was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Infantry Badge, Expert Infantry Badge, Parachutist Badge, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Overseas Ribbon, Army Good Conduct Medal and the NATO Medal.

A memorial service will be held Thursday, June 30, at 4 p.m. at Conyers First United Methodist, and will be open to the public. A funeral will be held in Tampa and a burial at West Point later at a time to be announced.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Fisher House,, a non-profit that provides lodging for military members and their families at VA medical centers.