Football: Ex-Westlake player killed in Afghanistan
The Westlake High School football community is in mourning after news came out over the weekend that former linebacker A.J. Castro, the son of former booster club President Hector Castro, was killed Saturday in a land mine explosion in Afghanistan. He was 20.
Castro, a 2007 Westlake graduate, was a U.S. Army Specialist attached to the 101st Airborne Division, according to the Ventura County Star.
Two other brothers, Steven and Ryan, played for Westlake. Ryan is also in the military.
The team held its annual intrasquad scrimmage Saturday. Hector Castro, the team's director of football operations, and others were celebrating at a local restaurant in Westlake Village when Castro was informed by military representatives of his son's death. He spent the night at Coach Jim Benkert's house before leaving early Sunday for Pennsylvania, along with his ex-wife, Carmen Roman.
This is the second ex-Westlake football player killed in Afghanistan in the last year. Frankie Toner, 26, a former homecoming king who was a Navy lieutenant, died in Afghanistan last year.
“It brings the war real close to home,” Benkert said. “We’re thankful for their efforts but something like this is a travesty.”
Westlake has been sending ex-football players off to the military for years. Three of the last four team MVPs are enrolled at West Point, the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy, respectively.
The Ventura County Star reported that Castro's remains were scheduled to be flown by military transport to Philadelphia on Monday and then Pierce Brothers mortuary in Westlake Village. The family is planning a memorial service at St. Jude's Catholic Church.
-- Eric Sondheimer