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Last Christmas, Casey Crate scooped his mother off her chair, took her outside and plopped her in front of her gift: A brand new Honda Civic. "He said, 'There you go, Mom, you've got a new car. That's from your little Sonny,'" Linda Crate said. "That's what I used to call him, Sonny." Crate, 26, of Spanaway, Wash., was killed May 30 in a crash of his surveillance plane about 80 miles northeast of Baghdad. He was based at Hurlburt Field. Crate was raised by a single mother and was teased by cousins for being such an attentive son when he chopped wood for her to heat the home. He attended Pierce College for two years, but didn't take his studies seriously. "I gave him four options," his mother said. "Get the grades up to go to (Washington State Univesity), go to trade school, or flip hamburgers for a living for the rest of your life." Crate chose his mother's fourth option: military service. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1998, and never regretted it. He was never able to say much about his special-operations work, but his mother heard from commanders after his death. "They told me they used to call him the 'mission hound.' He always took responsibility," she said.

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