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War claims Castleton student

Former Castleton State College student Lance Cpl. Kurt Dechen was killed in Iraq last month while serving in the Marines.”He always had a smile on his face,” Professor Brad Hunt said. “He was very outgoing and liked to have fun.”

Dechen was majoring in criminal justice at Castleton last year when he was called to duty. While attending Castleton, he did not tell his criminal justice professors of his plans to go to Iraq.

“I didn’t know he went [to Iraq] until after I heard he died,” Professor Laurie Rasenzweig said. “I have regrets that I had no opportunity to try to talk him out of going and to finish his degree.”

Dechen was 24 when he died on Aug. 3 after being injured at Anabar Province, Iraq.

“He was a good person. He had his faults, but he was strong in belief,” Dale Dechen, Kurt’s mother, said in a telephone interview.

Dechen joined the Marines with his friends from Springfield when they graduated from high school in 2001, according to the Burlington Free Press. He started attending Castleton the fall semester in 2001.

“I think he was really proud of the fact he was a Marine and that he was involved in something he could make a difference in,” Hunt said. “That’s why he went into criminal justice and joined the Marine Corps.”

Dechen was one of a few Castleton students who have either gone or could go to fight in the war in Iraq. Kurt Hunt, a friend of Dechen, will serve on active duty when he finishes college.

“Dechen’s death gives [me] a sense of pride in knowing what I am giving for this country,” Kurt Hunt said. “He gave his life so we can live ours, that is the ultimate sacrifice and any person in the military has sworn to do the same.”

Dechen left school for a while before coming back to Castleton to finish his degree before he was called to duty.

“He wanted to do something for his country,” Dale Dechen said.

Not only a military man, Dechen was known to get a class laughing and attend parties.

“He was a funny kid who always had a serious side,” Kurt Hunt said.

His teachers and friends were shocked when they heard the news on the television about Dechen.

“It was like surreal that a kid, a kid, could be here one minute then not the next. He was too young to die like that,” Rasenzweig said.