Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Marine Sgt. Derek L. Shanfield

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Sgt. Derek L. Shanfield, 22, of Hastings, Pa.

Sgt. Shanfield was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died June 8, 2010 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while supporting combat operations. Also killed was Sgt. Zachary J. Walters.

Young man remembered as perfect gentleman --

It seemed like Sgt. Derek L. Shanfield was born to be a Marine. The 22-year-old Cambria County native, who joined the Marines shortly after graduating in 2006 from Cambria Heights High School and recently was given a meritorious promotion, was killed Tuesday during combat operations in Afghanistan.

"He was truly amazing. He rose up through the ranks very high in a very short time. He was basically a picture of perfection when it comes to being a Marine," said Shanfield's brother, Marine Sgt. Sydney David Lee Shanfield.

Derek Shanfield and his twin brother, Marine Cpl. Devin L. Shanfield, joined the corps together and were stationed with different units in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

"I felt very compelled to take part in everything going on in our country, and both of my brothers were very proud to follow and do their part as well," said Sydney Shanfield, who joined the corps in 2001 and has served three tours of duty in Iraq.

"Derek believed in it wholeheartedly, believed in taking care of his Marines. He believed in everything he was doing."

The three Marines are the children of David and Pamela Shanfield of Hastings, 35 miles north of Johnstown.

"He was a squad leader. He deployed to Afghanistan earlier than the rest of his unit," Pamela Shanfield said. "He left May 21 and was just over there for two weeks. Devin was set to deploy later."

She said she didn't know all the details of what happened to her son.

"All I know is he was out on patrol."

The Department of Defense said Shanfield and Marine Sgt. Zachary J. Walters, 24, of Palm Coast, Fla., who also was based in Camp Lejeune, were killed in action in Helmand province. Both were members of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

Shanfield last talked to her son after he landed in Bangor, Maine, while en route to Afghanistan.

"He said the Freeport Flag Ladies took a bunch of pictures and put them on their website," Shanfield said, speaking of the group of women from a coastal Maine village who drive weekly to the airport in Bangor to see the soldiers off or greet them upon their return.

"He said not to worry, 'I'll be fine. I'll be coming home just as good as new.' I told him, 'Keep your head down and come on home.'"

She said her son -- who has two sisters, Jessica Petro of Maryland and Allison Shanfield, at home -- enjoyed running cross country and swimming.

"He was a good person. He made people laugh. He was just the kind of person who would make jokes or do something foolish. He had a lot of friends."

Shanfield is the first service member from Cambria County to die as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

News of Shanfield's death was spreading through Hastings, where as of Wednesday night, the VFW Post on Beaver Street had its flag lowered to half-mast.

"I just can't believe it, that somebody I graduated with has died so young," said Alissa Coposky, 22, of Patton, who was tending bar inside the post.

She and her fiance, Aaron McConnell, also of Patton, said they and the Shanfield twins, Derek and his brother, Devin, were in the Cambria Heights High School Class of 2006.

"Devin was always more mellow," Coposky said. "Derek was the one who was always cracking jokes, always in-your-face kind of funny."

McConnell remembered Derek Shanfield as a classmate who was a swimmer, track runner and a soccer player.

"He always had something nice to say ... and he was just too young to die," McConnell said.

"It is just so sad," Coposky said. "You know what I mean? It's just sad."

Cambria Heights High School guidance counselor Jeff Koss, outside Wednesday night's Class of 2010 commencement ceremony, said news of Shanfield's death was very shocking.

"Derek was very well-liked here and the perfect gentleman of a student," Koss said.

A moment of silence, in recognition of all military personnel, was observed at commencement after the National Anthem.

Lee Stanek, a former Cambria Heights educator and a neighbor to Shanfield, remembered him as an active student, an athlete and a "great kid."

"He was bright - a great student and a good young man," said Stanek. "You see it on TV and you wonder when it's going to be someone you know. When something like this happens, you just hate to hear it."

Sgt. Shanfield's family, heartbroken by the news Tuesday, indicated they were not yet prepared to talk about the matter.

"My heart goes out to his family," Stanek said. "And this is one of those things, in a small town like this, that will impact just about everyone in some way."

Hastings Mayor Sam Grillo agreed.

It's been 40 years or more since the last native son died at war, he said.

"When it happens in a town like Hastings, it hits home for everyone. Derek was a hometown boy," Grillo said.

His awards include the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Sgt. Shanfield is survived by his parents David and Pamela Shanfield, brother Marine Sgt. Sydney David Lee Shanfield, twin brother Cpl. Devin L. Shanfield, sister Allison Shanfield, all of Pennsylvania and sister Jessica Petro of Maryland.

Marine Sgt. Derek L. Shanfield was killed in action on 6/8/10.

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