Sunday, December 12, 2010

Army Spc. Derek T. Simonetta

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Derek T. Simonetta, 21, of Redwood City, Calif.

Spc. Simonetta was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died Dec. 12, 2010 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Cpl. Sean M. Collins, Cpl. Willie A. McLawhorn Jr., Spc. Patrick D. Deans, Spc. Kenneth E. Necochea Jr. and Spc. Jorge E. Villacis.

U.S. Army Spc. Derek Simonetta celebrated his 21st birthday with his family in Redding and San Carlos two months ago before returning to Afghanistan to fight. He confessed he had some misgivings about going back. "We're going over there to die," one service member told him.

Simonetta returned because it was his job, his family said. On Sunday, he was one of six U.S. soldiers killed in a suicide bombing in Kandahar province. "He gave all he could, and he gave the maximum gift," Paul Simonetta, 62, said Tuesday of his grandson.

Born in San Francisco, Derek Simonetta attended Carlmont High School in Belmont, where he met his wife-to-be, Kimberly, when they were freshmen. He moved to Redding and transferred to a high school there but kept in touch with her.

Bonnie Simonetta, 60, said her grandson had shuttled between his parents while growing up. "He was a young man that overcame a lot of obstacles in his life and had absolutely become a man," she said. "He was bravely serving his country. He was a good boy. We really loved him."

He and Kimberly married in 2008. Almost exactly two years later, Derek Simonetta deployed to Afghanistan. In October, he came home for 16 days to celebrate his 21st birthday with his and his wife's family.

"He was so happy to be home," said Kimberly Simonetta, 20, of San Carlos. "It was the best feeling to see his face, his smile, his bright green eyes."

She added, "He is my world, my everything. He's not gone - he's always with us. I know he's always with me, watching me, guiding me."

Simonetta was planning to leave the Army in January 2012 and hoped to become a deputy sheriff and start a family, his wife said. He knew his time in the Army could be stressful and harrowing.

"I think he had some reservations because of the action he saw," his grandmother said. "One of the things that impressed me was that he was in a firefight the first week he was there. I told him, 'Oh my God, Derek, what did you do? I would be scared if somebody was shooting at me.'

"He just said, 'I just did my job.' To me, that just showed me so much about what he turned out to be, a man who was there to do a job."

He is survived by his wife, Kimberly A. Simonetta of San Carlos, Calif.; mother, Tanya Simonetta of Redding, Calif., and father, James E. Lemp of Redwood City.

Army Spc. Derek T. Simonetta was killed in action on 12/12/10.

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