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Gold Star family presented with renovated car in honor of fallen Fort Bragg soldier

A collection of boots, each with the photo of a fallen service member, are aligned at memorial display at Fort Bragg, N.C., May 19, 2019. The memorial was organized by U.S. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and has been repeated every year for the past five years. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Hubert D. Delany III/22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Keys to a renovated car were presented to the family of fallen soldier Sgt 1st Class Keith Callahan on Thursday night at Segra Stadium.

Callahan, 31, was killed in action in Iraq in 2007.

He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.

Dody Callahan was nominated for the car donation by the USO of North Carolina and Tuesday’s Children, a national nonprofit organization that promotes long-term healing and builds common bonds through its resilience-building programming for children, families and communities affected by a traumatic loss.

The car donation by Caliber Collision and State Farm is part of a national program to repair and donate vehicles to families in need.

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“We are especially honored to present Mrs. Callahan and her five children with this vehicle in which we share our appreciation for the sacrifices she and her family have made on behalf of our country,” said Jaime Shannon, a local State Farm agent before Thursday night’s Fayetteville Woodpeckers game.

The car was restored by service members participating in Caliber Collision’s Changing Lanes program, which provides service members transitioning out of the military with no-cost training for a new career in auto body repair.

“I think it’s absolutely amazing that they’re taking veterans and bringing them out and teaching them how to do this and readjusting them back into society and life,” Dody Callahan said of the program Thursday night.

A mother of five who is going through school for nursing, Dody Callahan said the vehicle will help, as her 19-year-old son Devin Callahan is in college, and twins Brady and Brooke Callahan, 17, have shared a vehicle between going to school and picking up their younger sister, 8-year-old Katie.

Dody Callahan said she was also grateful Thursday night’s presentation took time to honor her late husband.

Lt. Col. Brian Koyn, the division chaplain for 82nd Airborne Division, served with Keith Callahan, and said he put his own welfare above others.

“One … thing that I knew about Keith Callahan was if he wasn’t talking about his paratroopers, he was talking about his family, and they were both family in his mind … ,” Koyn said. “And so it’s just awesome that we can honor you today and as an Army family and as an 82nd family and it’s be remiss if I didn’t say the White Falcon family.”

Keith Callahan was a boxer and soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division when Dody Callahan first met him.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Dody Callahan was visiting a friend in the Fayetteville area.

Keith Callahan impressed her so much she moved to the area two weeks later.

“He tried to be rough and gruff around the edges sometimes, but he had a rose waiting in the fence for me,” Dody Callahan said.

Shortly after they met, Dody Callahan said her husband transitioned from the regular Army to the Reserves in 1999, and took on plumbing and heating civilian jobs.

“He was like, ‘This isn’t for me. I’m a soldier … This is what I love. This is what I am,'” Dody Callahan said. “And so that’s what he did.”

She said her husband was on his fourth deployment at the time of his death.

She said she decided to remain in the Fayetteville area because she didn’t want to uproot their children after “a life altering moment.”

“What we built with their dad and their memories — what little memories they hold — are here,” Dody Callahan said. “And I wanted them to continuously —when we’d go on post — they’d see Army, so that’s not going to leave their minds — not that it’s ever going to leave their minds, because his pictures are all over our house, and I constantly talk about him.”

The couple’s children are Tyler Callahan, who is now 25 and lives in Pennsylvania; Devin Callahan, 19, who is in college; and twins Brady and Brooke, both 17.

“He loved life, and he was such a good man a good father, a good husband, the best ever in the world,” Dody Callahan said. “Ask any of the soldiers — anyone that went to war with him or trained with him — he was legit. His values and his morals, it was straight to the point. He took care of his guys. He took care of his own. And just overall, he was a good one. I miss him so much.”

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© 2019 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.