Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Army Staff Sgt. Derek J. Farley

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Derek J. Farley, 24, of Nassau, N.Y.

SSgt. Farley was assigned to the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, Grafenwoehr, Germany; died Aug. 17, 2010 at Bala Boluk, Farah, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated as he attempted to disarm it.

In wars of small gains, Staff Sgt. Derek Farley made a huge difference. The Rensselaer County soldier defused roadside bombs -- the enemy's primary killing machine in Iraq and Afghanistan. He lost hearing in one ear three years ago to a bomb that went off in Iraq, and received a Purple Heart. Last year, the explosives ordnance disposal technician deployed to Afghanistan to take apart more bombs. This time, he didn't survive.

At 5:50 a.m. Tuesday, an improvised bomb that Farley, 24, was disassembling exploded, killing him when he had just two weeks left in his yearlong tour, the Department of Defense and family members said.

"The world is a much worse place now that he is not here," said Sharon Farley Schiera of Malta, a cousin who Farley called "aunt. "He disarmed these roadside bombs, and every time, every single time he undid one, he said that he had saved the lives of a bunch of soldiers. He was so, so proud of that."

Farley grew up in Nassau and graduated from Columbia High Schooll in East Greenbush. He loved the outdoors and joined the military after graduating, Schiera said. Last year, the Army promoted Farley to staff sergeant while he was preparing for Afghanistan in Grafenwoehr, Germany, with its 702nd Ordnance Co.

Family members said that his body could arrive at Dover, Del., as soon as Wednesday.

"His father is a Vietnam combat vet, and he is having so much trouble with this," Schiera said. "It's just horrible."

The disposing of hazardous bombs is a long-standing military specialty that gained new currency in the guerrilla-like wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where insurgents use improvised explosive devices along roads and on the bodies of suicide bombers to kill thousands of Americans.

Kathy Farley Frase of Cobleskill, a cousin who Farley also considered an aunt, said in an interview that Farley had successfully defused one bomb Tuesday morning before attempting to take apart the one that killed him. She recalled Derek Farley as a man of integrity who had served six years in the military.

The Farley family will set local services for the young soldier as soon as they determine when his body will arrive in the Capital Region.

"He was close to his family, and that was special for a young person," Frase said. "Derek took time for other people. He was just a good kid."

On Wednesday, all flags on Rensselaer County government buildings and across the town of Nassau were lowered to half-staff in Farley's memory. "His death will be a consistent reminder of the sacrifices that our men and women of our military are prepared to make as they fight to preserve freedom for ourselves and people around the globe," county Executive Kathleen Jimino said. "Rensselaer County and the town of Nassau have lost a true hero."

Derek Farley's death came at a time of spiking violence in Afghanistan. He is the third soldier from the Capital Region to die in Afghanistan in the last two months.

Army Pfc. David Taylor Miller 19, of Saratoga Springs, died June 21 in a suicide bomb attack in northern Afghanistan. Spc. Benjamin D. Osborn, 27, of Queensbury, was shot and killed June 15 near Konar, where insurgents ambushed his unit's position.

When Derek Farley returned injured from Iraq in 2007, family members tried to talk him out of going back to war. But the soldier would hear nothing of it because he needed to be with his men, Schiera said. "I think he's a young man who deserves respect and honor," Schiera said. "My words just don't do him justice."

"Everybody's talkin' about it," said Tommy Boyle of Nassau. He calls the loss of Farley, a 2004 Columbia High School graduate, devastating. Boyle says he can imagine what the Farley family is experiencing. Boyle’s youngest son whom he raised alone, Sgt. Patrick Boyle, served 12 months in Iraq. "My heart was in my throat every day, hoping that nothing bad would happen to him," said Boyle.

"I hate to lose him,” said Ken McCarthy of Nassau. “He lived right around the corner but his honors are in this flag." Veterans all over Nassau fly their flags and proudly share their stories. David "Sarge" Groncki was wounded twice in Vietnam and received two Purple Hearts.

"If anything, you know, this place should, you know, be lined with people," said Groncki. Groncki says Sgt. Farley and his family deserve all of the honors that this community can provide.

Farley’s father is a Vietnam vet and his mother works at HVCC where, she helped to revive a veterans club that had been inactive since the Vietnam War era.

Army Staff Sgt. Derek J. Farley was killed in action on 8/17/10.

1 comment:

Zebra said...

God rest his soul. What a brave young man. My heart and prayers go out to his family & friends. He is now in the arms of the Angels.