Stephen William Castner

Uncommonly individualistic in word and deed, Stephen William Castner died fighting a war that, despite its growing unpopularity in his homeland, failed to shake his faith in its purpose.

"Stephen rebuffed those people encouraging him to Ďget outí of this deployment," said Spc. Gregory Weller, who was Castnerís communications chief for two years before deployment. " He refused many opportunities to avoid coming here. This is exactly where he wanted to be, and what he wanted to be doing, with who he wanted to be doing it with."

Just three days after arriving in the Middle East, Cpl. Castner, 27, died July 24, 2006 in Tallil, Iraq, after a roadside explosive detonated beneath his armored Humvee. He was the 58th Wisconsin resident to die in Iraq, and the first from Cedarburg.

The family will receive friends from 11 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. Saturday at the Concordia University Field House, 12800 N. Lake Shore Road, Mequon. A memorial service will start promptly at 2 p.m.

Castner was born Dec. 15, 1978 in Milwaukee to Stephen L. and Kathryn J. (nee Nielsen) Castner. He graduated from Cedarburg High School in 1997 and then enlisted in the Air Force, specializing in electronic communications. The Airman 1st Class spent three years at the 20th Air Force Missile Operations Center at Warren AFB in Wyoming.

After leaving the Air Force he enrolled at UW-Milwaukee in the school of Architecture and Urban Planning and worked in the Student Technology Services program of the schoolís Information and Media Technologies department.

Once, while trying to understand the Windows registry, which controls all the functions the operating system can execute, Castner began deleting random parts, observing what happened to his machine after each purge. Slowly his machine degraded until it was unusable.

"He finally destroyed the computer, but learned how the registry worked," says friend Michael Grypp, an I&MT technical services specialist at UW-Milwaukee. "That was Castner at his questioning and fearless best."

In October 2004, Castner enlisted in the Wisconsin Army National Guard as a radio operator and maintainer for Battery A, 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery. He transferred to study land use planning at UW-Stevens Point in August 2005 and was called to active duty this April.

He is survived by his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and many friends. No flowers will be accepted for the memorial service. The family has requested memorials to the Cedarburg Community Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 654, Cedarburg, WI 53012.