Monday, February 28, 2011

Army Pfc. David R. Fahey Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. David R. Fahey Jr., 23, of Norwalk, Conn.

Pfc Fahey was assigned to 504th Military Police Battalion, 42nd Military Police Brigade, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; died Feb. 28, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device.

According to unit records, Fahey enlisted in the Army Aug. 31, 2007, at Springfield, Mass., and reported to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., next month. After training a military policeman, he served .12 months at Camp Walker, Korea, and then reported to Lewis-McChord March 18, 2009 He was assigned to the 42nd Military Police Brigade.

At Faith Preparatory Academy in New Milford on Wednesday, where David R. Fahey Jr. graduated in 2006, the school was planning a memorial page for its yearbook, featuring photos of him playing soccer.

Principal Josephine DuBois, said she has been fielding calls from his classmates since they learned that Pfc. David R. Fahey Jr. was killed Monday while on duty in Afghanistan.

"The whole class of kids is just devastated," DuBois said, noting that when Fahey attended the Christian school was located in Danbury and was called New Hope Academy.

"Even though he had things in his past, it's a testimony to him how he grew up," DuBois said. "He was a good Christian, truly somebody who knew what he was doing."

Fahey's sister, Phyliss Lee, put up a Facebook tribute to her brother Tuesday, and Giordano is one of 56 people who have signed up so far. "I will always remember David being the funny guy," said Giordano, 21, of Rollinsford, N.H. "He was always pulling pranks and joking around."

Reports of Fahey's connection to Norwalk are conflicting. The Department of Defense said Fahey was from Norwalk, but The Hartford Courant quotes Mayor Richard Moccia as saying Fahey went to school in Norwalk until seventh grade. The News-Times says Fahey was raised in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

Emails to The Daily Norwalk from Dino Parton say Fahey lived in Yorktown Heights for several years before he enlisted in 2007 and that commuted to high school in Connecticut. Parton said Fahey and his family were pillars in her church, Calvary Bible Church.

Phyllis Lee confirmed that her brother did not go to public high school in Norwalk. Giordano says Phyllis is Fahey's younger sister. He is also survived by a younger brother, Nick Fahey, who lives in Westchester County, N.Y. Fahey was raised by an aunt and uncle, who are now in Dover, Del. They will receive his body Wednesday.

Giordano said she has known Fahey for almost all of her life but hadn't talked to him in a long time. Fortunately, she got the chance to have "one last conversation" with him a few weeks ago. They laughed and joked about old times, including his Backstreet Boys dance on the porch. In return, Giordano and four other girls did a Spice Girls act.

"I will always remember his prank phone calls telling people Margaret was hiding in their closet and the way he always used to say 'hey mang,'" Giordano said on Facebook. "Dave was an amazing kid, and I would do anything to be able to reminisce on the old times we spent together with him again."

Lee wrote to The Daily Norwalk, "It's such a tragedy. I can't believe it. He's in such a better place, he will always be a hero. He was greatly loved by so many and such great family support! It has been such an honor to have such an amazing brother!! He would do anything for anyone give the shirt off his back for you even if he didn't know you! He will never be forgotten and we will meet again!"

Fahey's friends, who are scattered across the region, agreed. "Dave was the best of all of us," John Gullen of Syracuse wrote on Facebook. "He brought joy and laughter to every situation and I miss him like crazy."

Katie O'Brien of Yorktown Heights said on Facebook, "Dave was one of the funniest guys I've ever known. He could brighten up any atmosphere. One of my many great memories of him was when I had my back surgery and him, Danny, and I think Stephen bought me a whole bunch of helium balloons. All the balloons said things like 'Get better soon' etc. But the one that Dave picked out said 'It's a boy!' Hahaha totally made my day and I'll never forget him."

The way his grandmother tells it, Fahey was born into a world of chaos.

The parents gave him up," Sharon Trepanier, 66, of Shelton, told WTNH-TV. "They didn't care. They were drug addicts." The oldest of three children, Fahey was forced to grow up fast. His father died young and his mother led a pockmarked life in and out of prison and drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, according to court records.

Fahey and his younger brother and sister were cared for by Trepanier and other relatives and were eventually formally adopted by their Aunt Fran and Uncle Tom Fahey in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., where they lived with their three cousins.

Despite a turbulent childhood, Fahey was known as a good student and gained a reputation as a practical joker who loved to bring levity to any situation. Relatives said he was deeply religious and wanted to serve his community, enlisting in the U.S. Army and was looking to join the New York City Police Department.

Relatives were still waiting Wednesday for the the military to release his remains before arrangements are finalized.

Dan O'Brien, the pastor at Calvary Bible Church in Yorktown Heights where Fahey attended services, accompanied the family to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to bring his body home.

It is unclear where the funeral will be held and if O'Brien's church will be big enough to accommodate the hundreds of mourners expected to pay their respects.

While growing up in Norwalk, Fahey attended Kendall Elementary School and spent a year from 1999 to 2000 in sixth grade at Ponus Ridge Middle School, said Principal Linda Sumpter.

"It is always sad news (when a soldier dies) but it is even sadder when it strikes so close to home," Sumpter said.

Betty Ettinger, 41, a Shelton resident originally from Westport, said Fahey lived in Norwalk with her sister and brother-in-law since he was 8 years old and attended Ponus Ridge Middle School. Two sets of relatives on both sides of his family raised Fahey, and everyone considered him their son, she said.

Ettinger's sister, Cari, cared for Fahey and his younger brother and sister in Norwalk before he moved in with his aunt and uncle in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

Ettinger called Fahey the "ultimate practical joker" and said his many cousins and aunts and uncles all had set times to speak with him during his four-year tour overseas. She called Fahey a "hero" and said he overcame a spotty family history at a young age.

"He was everything to us," Ettinger said. "We're going to be empty now, for a long time."

Fahey's 57-year-old uncle, Christopher Fahey of Wilmington, N.C., described his nephew as a gregarious and religious young man who enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school in order to gain training and experience as a police officer. Christopher said his nephew had a job lined up with the New York Police Department after his tour of duty ended. "He always talked about becoming a policeman," Christopher said.

Fahey was raised by his uncle Tom Fahey after his own father passed away, Christopher said. His brother took custody of Fahey, his younger sister and little brother and cared for them along with his four children. He said Fahey lived in Norwalk with relatives briefly after graduating high school and before enlisting in the military.

"He was friendly," Christopher said from his home Tuesday afternoon. "He has a load of friends. He was well liked."

Christopher said Fahey enlisted for a four-year tour and was due to finish the last few months of service at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Wash. He said the family is devastated by Fahey's death. "We're all still in shock," Christopher said.

Christopher said his brother told him the Army is sending his nephew's body to the United States and will hold a private ceremony Wednesday morning at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for the aunt and uncle who raised Fahey. Funeral arrangements for friends and relatives are still being arranged, he said.

According to a story in the Norwalk Citizen newspaper today, Gov. Daniel P. Malloy ordered the state and U.S. flags to fly at half staff in Fahey's honor.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of Pfc. David Fahey," said Malloy in a statement. "Our country lost a brave and dedicated serviceman, and we stand with the men and women who are grieving the loss of Pfc. Fahey, and the families of the other brave soldiers, sailors, and airmen who have given the ultimate sacrifice. Our hearts go out to the soldiers who are working so hard, so far away from home. We wish for your safe and speedy return."

Fahey's awards and decorations include the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and more, according to the public affairs office at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Army Pfc. David R. Fahey Jr. was killed in action on 2/28/11.

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