The 35th Infantry Regiment Association salutes our fallen brother, SGT Derek T. Roberts, who died in the service of his country on June 14th, 2007 in Kirkuk, Iraq. The cause of death was listed as Improvised Explosive Device. At the time of his death Derek was 24 years of age. He was from Gold River, California.
The decorations earned by SGT Derek T. Roberts include: the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart,
Soldier's ultimate sacrifice
Gold River infantryman killed in Iraq had quick wit, strong will and a dedication to service
Flags will be flown at half-staff at the state Capitol in memory of Derek T. Roberts, a strong-willed, likable and patriotic infantryman from Gold River who was killed in action last week.
He and two other soldiers died on June 14 in Kirkuk, Iraq, from wounds they suffered when an explosion occurred near their Humvee.
The Bella Vista High School graduate grew up in Fair Oaks and joined the Army in 2003.
Funeral services were held Monday for a Gold River soldier killed in Iraq.
Sgt. Derek Roberts, 24, died from wounds he received in a roadside bomb attack in Kirkut, Iraq on June 14. It was his second of tour of duty after first serving in Afghanistan.
Judi Arel, Robert's bride-to-be said he was a highly-decorated soldier, having received the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Army Good Conduct Medal. But what meant the most to her was the kind of person Roberts was.
"He always gave me compliments everyday and he always just took care of me and that's what I'll miss," Arel said.
The couple planned to return to Hawaii where Roberts was stationed and get married and go to school.
Arel recalled her fiance as "a really, really nice and genuine person. He always tried to help people, be nice to people, do the right thing and have a good set of morals and values."
Arel said Roberts' parents are devastated but so proud of their son. The American flag flies over their Gold River home.
Roberts grew up in Fair Oaks and graduated from Bella Vista High School. He enlisted in the Army in 2003.
Roberts will be buried in Hawaii.
His father, Dennis Roberts, said his son was headstrong. When he came home one day and said he was going to join the Army, his parents knew his mind was made up.
Sgt. Roberts, 24, was tough, his father said. Dennis Roberts, a concrete contractor, said that when others were dropping in the heat at Fort Benning, Ga., during basic training, his son soldiered on.
"He said problems just get worse if you stop and rest," his father said.
Roberts was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Infantry Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
He had a wide circle of friends who appreciated his quick wit.
The military said Roberts excelled in all assignments and received many awards, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal and the Combat Infantry Badge.
His parents said their son was highly regarded by his peers and superiors. Roberts was proud to be in the infantry.
"You bet, boots on the ground," his father said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement that Roberts' death epitomized courage and the American spirit.
"California has suffered a great loss with the death of Sgt. Derek Roberts, and Maria and I humbly pay tribute to the great sacrifice he made for our nation. Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Derek," the statement said.
The family said that the public is invited to services at 10 a.m. Monday at East Lawn Sierra Hills Memorial Park Mortuary, 5757 Greenback Lane.
"We want everybody to celebrate the sacrifice he has made," Dennis Roberts said.
He is survived by his parents, Dennis and Willy of Gold River; grandparents, Snowden and Peggy Roberts of Neskowin, Ore., and Sandra Chandler of Roseville; brother, Trevor, and sister-in-law, Christine, of Provo, Utah; and Judi Arel of Sacramento, whom he was planning to marry.
He will be buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
"The reason we are going to put him there is because Judi is going to be back in Hawaii, and when his unit comes home, they will be able to get that closure," Dennis Roberts said. "He is on with his Father in heaven, but some of those men will need that chance to go and say goodbye."
Posted on: Thursday, June 21, 2007
Iraq war makes a 'widow' of 22-year-old
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
Schofield Barracks Sgt. Derek T. Roberts, 24, and his fiancee, Judi Arel, 22, planned to get married, maybe on the North Shore, upon his return from Iraq. Instead, Arel is planning his funeral.
Spc. Val J. Borm
Judi Arel and Army Sgt. Derek Roberts often talked on the phone about plans for a wedding that was delayed by Iraq.
The couple wanted to get married on the beach in Hawai'i where Roberts was stationed, and where he wanted to make their home. A knock on the door Friday morning changed all that.
"We were planning a wedding, and now I'm planning a funeral. Kind of a hard switch," Arel said.
The 24-year-old California man was supposed to get out of the service in January 2007, but the deployment to Iraq kept him in.
They thought about September or October, after he had returned home, but his yearlong tour was extended to 15 months.
Finally, the couple decided that whenever he returned, they would invite family and friends in, and tie the knot, possibly on the North Shore.
Those plans are only a memory now.
Arel and Roberts' parents were told he had died along with two other Schofield Barracks soldiers June 14 in a roadside bomb blast that hit their Humvee in Kirkuk. Another soldier was seriously wounded.
Roberts' parents are devastated, Arel said. "Words can't even explain the shock and grief," Arel, 22, said.
The deaths that used to come singly in the more than four-year-old war are increasingly occurring in multiples -- three, four and five -- as more powerful bombs are employed that can take out a tank and simply demolish a Humvee.
The deaths Dec. 6 of five Schofield soldiers from a large roadside bomb that hit their Humvee in Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk, represented the single greatest combat loss for Hawai'i's 25th Infantry Division since the Vietnam War.
Twenty-eight Schofield soldiers have been killed since July on the 15-month deployment by more than 7,000 of the Hawai'i troops to northern Iraq. Five Schofield soldiers in total were killed last week.
By comparison, 13 died on a 2004 deployment of 5,200 soldiers to some of the same regions of Iraq.
The Pentagon yesterday also identified Spc. Val J. Borm, 21, of Sidney, Neb.; and Spc. Farid Elazzouzi, of Paterson, N.J., as having died in the Thursday attack. Borm's parents had previously confirmed he had been killed in the bomb blast.
The soldiers were with the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry at Schofield Barracks.
Arel said friends in the Army in Iraq told her "this was one of the biggest explosions we've seen."
"There was no way of predicting it, and it just wiped them out instantly," she said.
'A SHOCK TO EVERYONE'
Arel, who moved in with Roberts' parents in Gold River, Calif., while she waited for his return, said her fiance had done his time in the Army and was looking forward to getting out.
He had joined out of high school with a buddy while looking for direction in life, and had previously deployed to Afghanistan.
The red-headed soldier with green eyes who loved "underground" music had just recently "come back to develop a relationship with God," Arel said.
Kristine Brewer, who along with her husband lived with Roberts and Arel at Iroquois Point before the deployment, said Roberts was "a very outgoing person and he was always full of life."
"It's very, very hard for me to handle," Brewer said. "It's a shock to everyone. He was a really good guy."
Roberts had a sensitive side, and treated his fiancee and fellow soldiers with respect, Arel said.
"He was so giving to other soldiers, like the new privates coming in; when all the sergeants were being mean to them, Derek would stand up for them, and say that it's not OK to treat them that way," she said.
Other soldiers in Kirkuk knew Roberts as someone who always had a smile, a witty comment, and a way to make every situation better, Arel said.
But the exterior also masked frustration at being "stop-lossed," or kept in the Army longer than his contract called for because of the Iraq deployment.
"Nobody's morale over there is high," Arel said. "They have their friends dying left and right, and half of them are stop-lossed and they all got (their time in Iraq) extended."
SHE'LL KEEP ON WAITING
All the Schofield soldiers deployed believing they would be in Iraq a year, but the Army has extended tours for all soldiers in the country to 15 months.
One of the things that kept Roberts going was looking forward to marrying Arel back in Hawai'i.
"Being a widow at 22 is ... I just don't even have words in my vocabulary to explain it," she said.
But she also made Roberts a promise.
"No matter how long he was deployed, I would keep waiting for him, because I love him," Arel said. "No matter how long I have to keep waiting for him, I'll just keep waiting until I see him again in heaven."
Reach William Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org.