Hometown Heroes

VIDEO: Get to know the newest Peoria Independent Hometown Heroes

Posted 4/10/22

Teri and Patrick Caserta have been named the Peoria Independent Hometown Heros in the Health Care category.

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Hometown Heroes

VIDEO: Get to know the newest Peoria Independent Hometown Heroes

Posted

The Casertas have been named Hometown Heroes in the Health Care category.

The Hometown Heroes Awards are a celebration of individuals who live or teach in the city, and Peoria businesses for their local achievements and distinguished contributions to the community.

The Casertas will be honored at an awards luncheon next year.

In partnership with the city of Peoria, they will be interviewed by the city and aired on Channel 11.

The new law established a standard phrase, like “Brandon Act,” that when spoken by a member of the Armed Forces to a commanding officer or supervisor would trigger a confidential mental health evaluation referral that would not require a notification to the command.

Get to know the Casertas here.

What I like most about living in Peoria.

What we like best about Peoria is its peaceful, beautiful mountain settings. We love the city parks and the mountain trail system. We chose to live in Peoria because of the school system. We knew we wanted our son, Brandon, to have the best schooling, and that would be in Peoria.

Personal background highlights.

We were volunteer Peoria coaches for Brandon’s flag football and CCV tackle football for about 10 years. We volunteered at the YMCA for flag football.

Professional background highlights.

There are several highlights we both experienced in the journey to the signing of the Brandon Act by Pres. Biden. One was meeting the League of Latino American Citizens President Domingo Garcia and receiving the LULAC Presidential Medal of Honor.

We were also able to meet with Congressman Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) who sponsored The Brandon Act and Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) who co-sponsored the bill in person several times. We personally met with Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) who sponsored the bill and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). We met him in the U.S. Capitol after being taken on their train in 2019. He also co-sponsored The Brandon Act.

Teri: I graduated high school in Sioux City, Iowa. I went to Western Iowa Tech Community College where I graduated with a Secretarial degree. I taught gymnastics at the YWCA and grew their program substantially. I was the East High School gymnastics coach for two years. I then decided to moved to Phoenix when I was 20 years old. Patrick and I were married in 1994 and Brandon was born in 1997. I am now the President of The Brandon Caserta Foundation.

Patrick: Moved to Arizona from Pennsylvania when I was 7 years old, and graduated from Shadow Mountain High School. I joined the U.S. Navy and was stationed throughout my 22 years in San Diego, Phoenix, Memphis, and Great Lakes, Illinois. Arizona has always been considered my home. Now I am a 22-year retired Navy Senior Chief and Career Counselor. I received both of my degrees, Political Science and Communications along with a minor in Sociology, from ASU after retiring from the military. I am a retired 100% disabled decorated combat war veteran and the Treasurer and Vice President of The Brandon Caserta Foundation.

What does it mean to be a Peoria resident?
We have lived in Peoria for over 20 years. We love Peoria. Brandon was raised here. It means a great deal that we chose Peoria to live in. After Brandon’s death, we went to Mayor Cathy Carlat for help and guidance. She made us feel like the most important people in Peoria. She and her team which also included Councilwoman Bridget Binsbacher, listened to us and guided us. Their initial help is why The Brandon Act was successful. We were able to include Brandon’s name on the military memorial wall at Rio Vista Park with their help. I honestly do not know any other mayor who would gather a team of approximately 10 people to help a couple who lost their only child to suicide in the military like her. To this day, we are in contact with Councilwoman Binsbacher who continues to support us and find ways to honor Brandon and his service.

Changes I’d like to see in Peoria.

We would like to see a Costco, In-N-Out Burger, and a Del Taco in Northwest Peoria. We would also like to see all the restaurants that tend to be in the Gilbert area, in Peoria. We would like to see more mountain tails and more exits off of the 303. We would also like to see a true exit on/off of Beardsley to the 101. These are just suggestions for Peoria’s vision and future plans through the next mayor and city council.

My family (what have they taught you).

Teri: My family taught me to respect others, wildlife and keep the land beautiful. I grew up in Iowa and we were a family of campers and fishing. We always saw the beauty wherever we camped, and always stopped to watch a sunset and respect the quiet.

Patrick: My family taught me how to do things on my own and be a “Jack of all Trades.” I was taught how important it is to stay in touch with family and friends even if you live far away. There is always room for one more at the dinner table and never take no for an answer when you are passionate about something.

My interests and hobbies.

Teri: I like to read and watch TV, as well as social media. I also take calls from service members and their families helping and guiding them on how to get mental health help that their commands are not allowing them to get.

Patrick: Video games, Legos, football and baseball cards, movies, listening to classic rock, and reading.

The trait(s) I admire in others.

We like people who are kind, honest, caring and compassionate. Things of this nature were not given to Brandon while he served in the Navy.

People who inspired me (and how).

Teri: Brandon inspired me. He was a very generous, patient and kind-hearted person. Through this journey, I have had to look to him to be more patient when dealing with individuals. He helped anyone who needed help and now it’s my turn. My sister, Renae, also inspires me. She has been my rock since Brandon’s death. She is a retired U.S. Army veteran and knows what The Brandon Act does for our service members. When I got bad news, she was always there to lift me up and tell me to keep doing what we were doing and reassured me that the men and women in uniform deserve to have The Brandon Act in place. I have to add Congressman Seth Moulton as an inspiration because he believed in us and Brandon. He was brave enough to talk about his PTSD and the one subject no one wants to talk about — suicide. Failure was not an option for him when it came to The Brandon Act.

Patrick: My grandfather, Abe, loved people and always found the good in them no matter how hard it was. He taught me how to save money and be prepared for retirement. My grandfather took over the role of my father because my father left when I was three years old.

Tom Brady inspires me by being picked very last in the NFL draft and ending up being the best quarterback of all time. Kurt Warner is another inspiration to me because he never gave up and believed in himself.

My guiding philosophy.

This is a saying Brandon used to say all the time: Never forget who you are and always be true to yourself. A person should never lose sight of who they are.

My advice to today’s youth.

Our advice to today’s youth is to be compassionate and kind to one another. You do not know what others are going through. By being this way, you may just save a life. Be kind to yourself. You are the only you in this world. If you or someone you know are going through something and need mental health help, ask for it. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to stand up for yourself and what you feel is important. Make a difference in your schools and communities. Help make this world a better place.

Name a couple future goals.

Our main goal is to get Brandon justice for what was done to him. Brandon served this country with honor and deserves justice. We would like to update The Brandon Act with some of the original things we had on it. We would like to see accountability in our Armed Forces with an oversight and accountability act.

Philip Haldiman can be reached at phaldiman@iniusa.org, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.

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