ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) –August 17 marked the 11 year anniversary of the death of Staff Sergeant Derek J. Farley, who was killed in action in Afghanistan. In the midst of the fall of Afghanistan, his mother and best friend said his sacrifice is not in vain.
Ryan Whitman met Derek at EOD—Explosive Ordnance Disposal—school. They both volunteered for a year of complex and sometimes dangerous training to disarm bombs.
“Even people that met him for five minutes just loved him,” Whitman said “EOD is one of the only specialized jobs where your job is really saving people’s, lives instead of taking them. And it think he really believed in that.”
Derek enlisted in the Army at the age of 17, just six months before graduation at Columbia High School in East Greenbush in 2004.
His mother, Carrie Farley, said Derek’s determination to become a soldier started from a young age when he watched the HBO series “Band of Brothers” on repeat.
“He said, mom, see those guys in the foxhole? I want that brotherhood. I want that camaraderie,” Carrie said.
Derek’s determination was unwavering, and she respected his decision. Because he was under 18-years-old, Carrie had to sign off to permit him to enlist.
“And he chose explosive disposal. Was I happy? No,” Carrie said. “But once they pick that goal, and it’s an honorable goal, we support that.”
After training, Derek was eager to use his newfound skills.
He deployed to Iraq in 2006 and 2007, receiving a Purple Heart from an injury. He was then assigned to the 702nd Ordnance Company (EOD) in Grafenwoehr, Germany where he became EOD Team Leader. From there, he deployed to Afghanistan with two other men in his unit.
“There’s no telling how many hundreds of people’s lives he affected overseas,” Whitman said. “With every bomb he ripped out of the ground, he gave families the chance to not worry about the Taliban knocking down their door, not going through life missing limbs or a family member.”
Carrie said the deployment wasn’t easy on Derek. Afghan bombs were a challenge to disarm, but what bothered him most was the Taliban’s disregard for human life, especially children.
“He just kept saying it: For every bomb I get rid of, I either save a soldier or just as important, an Afghani,” Carrie said.
On August 17, 2010, Derek attempted to dismantle an IED the Taliban had placed in front of a remote village.
“So, he went down there with a bang stick and pulled it out by hand and was taking it apart when it went off and killed him,” Whitman said.
In the wake of the Taliban takeover in Afganistan, Carrie said she finds comfort in Derek’s love of country and his unwavering commitment to the mission.
“He was doing what he really wanted to do in life, and it was the honorable thing to do in life,” Carrie said.
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