A new endowed fund given in honor of U.S. Army Ranger Dimitri del Castillo will help Texas A&M's Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital provide top veterinary care to military dogs with large veterinary medical bills, medically retired veterans’ service dogs and patients whose owners are active military service personnel.

Dimitri del Castillo had a zest for life, a commitment to excellence, a passion for service and a genius for leading others. That charismatic combination helped the Houston native graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point and become an Army Ranger. Those traits were also critical in ensuring that all the men in his platoon survived during a 2011 firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Sadly, that battle, which lasted about eight days, took Dimitri’s life as well as seven soldiers in other units and a military dog named Agdar.

Dimitri’s bravery and sense of duty spurred his elementary school teacher, Linda McCormick, to establish the Veterinary Valor Fund in Memory of Dimitri del Castillo at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences in his memory. The endowed fund, created through the Texas A&M Foundation, kickstarts a program to help the college’s nationally recognized Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) provide top veterinary care to military dogs with unexpected veterinary medical bills, medically retired veterans’ service dogs and VMTH patients whose owners are active military service personnel.

“It is so important that we recognize the sacrifices active military members and veterans have made,” said Sheila Carter ’91, the VMTH’s associate director. “We envision this fund as a tangible way to show servicemen and women how much Texas A&M appreciates and values their service.”

Known for its compassionate professionalism and cutting-edge care, the teaching hospital includes facilities for small and large animals and offers a wide range of specialized services. Prior to the Veterinary Valor Program’s creation in August 2019, approximately 120 veterans tapped other non-endowed hospital funds to defray medical costs for their animals.

“The creation of this endowed fund by Mrs. McCormick will help ensure that current military personnel and veterans have access to life-saving care for their animals,” added Carter.

A Long-Term Connection

Dimitri’s father, Carlos del Castillo, described his son as “an average American kid with an infectious laugh, which was one of his endearing qualities. He marched to the beat of his own drum and always wanted to have the maximum experience in life.”

The family always tried to find special ways to celebrate life’s milestones. For example, Carlos and his wife, Catherine, planned a surprise for their children at the end of each school year. One year, Dimitri and his siblings left the school bus and were greeted by a black Labrador puppy named Shadow, who became the family’s first dog. 

As a young boy, Dimitri was assigned to McCormick’s third-grade class at Nottingham Country Elementary School in Katy ISD. “He was a dream student,” she remembered. “He was smart, quiet and courteous and had a warm smile all the time.”

McCormick lost touch with Dimitri after he left her class, but the two reconnected when she sent him a card marking his high school graduation. Dimitri responded with a thank you card, and they stayed in touch while he was at West Point and Fort Benning.

  • Memorial to Dimitri

    U.S. Army soldiers from 2-35 infantry battalion take part in a memorial ceremony honoring Dimitri and others who died during operations in the Kunar district of Afghanistan in 2011. Photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner
  • West Point Graduation

    Dimitri del Castillo at his West Point graduation with his brother, Carlos Andres (left), and father, Carlos (right).
  • U.S. Army Ranger Graduation

    Dimitri and his mother, Catherine, at his U.S. Army Ranger graduation in Ft. Benning, Georgia, in May 2010. After qualifying as a U.S. Army Ranger, Dimitri was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. He was stationed in Hawaii before being deployed to Afghanistan.
  • Celebrating with Family

    Dimitri at his U.S. Army Ranger graduation, pictured with his parents, Catherine and Carlos, and his sister, Anna.
  • Commissioning

    Dimitri commissions one of his men at his Forward Operating Base, FOB Joyce, in Afghanistan.
  • Linda McCormick

    Linda McCormick (right) established the Veterinary Valor Fund in Memory of Dimitri del Castillo. She is pictured here with Dimitri's mother, Catherine del Castillo (center), and Monika Blackwell (left), development officer for the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

The Veterinary Valor Fund in Memory of Dimitri del Castillo accepts donations online from other donors. For more information, please contact Monika Blackwell, assistant director of development for the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, at mblackwell@txamfoundation.com or (979) 845-9043. Give to the Veterinary Valor Fund here.

Contact:

Monika Blackwell

Assistant Director of Development
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
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