Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Derek A. Gibson dies of injuries from I.E.D.

Derek Gibson was one of those guys who could make anyone laugh.

"He had a sense of humor, and he would do something and you can't help but laugh at him," said his mother, Janet Gibson, of Eustis, Fla.

"Everyone in this house is telling stories about him, and it's one comic thing after another."

Pfc. Gibson, 20, was one of two Fort Carson soldiers killed Wednesday in Baghdad, Iraq. The other was Pfc. William Freeman Jr., 20, of Lancaster, Calif. An improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle during combat operations.

Both were assigned to Fort Carson's 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

Gibson was born in Eustis and attended Eustis High School before dropping out at the age of 16 to work for his father's home remodeling company, Gibson Construction.

"He was a good framing carpenter," said his father, Jerry Gibson. "He was mechanically minded. He could run equipment and do anything like that."

Derek Gibson worked in construction for three years and got his GED in 2004. Last March, he decided to join the Army, partly because his then-girlfriend, Jessica Goforth, 19, joined the military.

"There were some plans to be together in the military, but that was quickly doused," said his father.

The two remained friends, and stayed in the military. She is currently posted in Afghanistan.

Derek Gibson was assigned to Fort Carson, where he stayed for four months.

"He didn't like the thin air there," said his father, who drove his son's Chevy Blazer out to Colorado for him.

But Derek Gibson got to spend some time with a maternal aunt and uncle who lived in Denver.

Last October, he was deployed to Iraq. Initially, he was assigned to Camp Prosperity, which was in one of Saddam Hussein's old palaces in the Green Zone, a secure area in Baghdad.

"Every time we talked, you could hear stuff in the distance, but it was not a big deal for him," said his mother. "If he didn't worry about it, then I wouldn't worry about it, either."

More recently, he was transferred to Camp Falcon, where conditions were rougher.

"He didn't complain," said his father. "He did his duty and didn't raise a ruckus about it."

"He knew the dangers over there," he said. "He was no longer a naive kid."

Jerry Gibson said he was proud of his son.

"He's a hero in my heart and always will be," said his father. "Above everything else, he was fighting for U.S. freedom. He did what his country asked him to do."

Funeral services for Derek Gibson will be Friday morning at Bay Street Baptist Church in Eustis. Burial will be in Greenwood Cemetery in Eustis.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by a brother, Dustin Gibson, of Charlotte, N.C.; a sister, Shannon Gibson, of Eustis; maternal grandparents, Lily and Art Buser, of Eustis; paternal grandparents, Esker and Madrue Gibson, of Grand Island, Fla.; and maternal aunt Kathy Murray and maternal uncle Jay Buser, both of Denver.

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