MCoE honors fallen officers
June 20, 2012
By VINCE LITTLE
FORT BENNING, Ga. (June 20, 2012) -- The Maneuver Center of Excellence has named two facilities at McGinnis-Wickam Hall after a pair of lieutenant colonels killed in the war on terrorism.
A first-floor lecture hall is now officially known as Derby Auditorium in honor of Lt. Col. Garnet "Gary" R. Derby, while a classroom on the east side of the headquarters building was designated the Fenty Room for Lt. Col. Joseph J. Fenty Jr. The dual dedication ceremonies, which kicked off in Marshall Auditorium, took place Monday. About 700 people attended, including the Families of both men.
Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the MCoE and Fort Benning commanding general, said Fenty and Derby are "true American heroes" who represent the brave, courageous, selfless and inspiring brand of leadership the post wants its Soldiers to look to and emulate as they train here.
"They led from the front and set the example for their Soldiers," he said. "These are two Soldiers who were extraordinary in their leadership ability in combat. In dedicating these rooms today … every Soldier, civilian and guest to Fort Benning who walks these halls will see the plaques and display cases that proclaim the commitment and legacy of Lt. Col. Joe Fenty and Lt. Col. Gary Derby.
"These courageous officers touched the lives of so many in a profoundly positive way. We will never know where their influence stops. And these classrooms will help us introduce new generations of Soldiers and leaders to their example. … We will draw strength from their lives and their example."
Fenty gave his life while serving as the commander of 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, which had deployed to Afghanistan from Fort Drum, N.Y. He and nine other Soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice on May 5, 2006, during combat operations in Kunar province.
Derby, meanwhile, returned to Iraq for a third time in December 2008 as commander of the Fort Hood, Texas-based 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
On Feb. 9, 2009, the lieutenant colonel and three members of his personal security detachment were traveling to a battalion combat outpost in Mosul to lead an Iraqi-American security patrol when a roadside bomb struck the convoy. All four died in the attack.
His wife, Brenda, and their three children -- Jennifer, Matthew and Benjamin -- were among Family members who traveled from Billings, Mont., to attend the ceremony.
Fenty's widow, Kristen, and his mother, Charlee Miller, were on hand Monday for the unveiling of his plaque and display case.
"I'm grateful for how the Army recognized Joe and his Family," Miller said in a brief, but tearful address, which drew a standing ovation from the audience. "His spirit is never far. He was an incredible young man, and I thank each and every one of you for serving our country. I have so much respect for what you do. You're doing meaningful, meaningful work that will live on in so many ways. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Kristen Fenty said she prefers to remember her husband's life as opposed to how he was lost in combat. However, she decided not to bring Lauren, the 6-year-old daughter he never got a chance to meet, fearing it might be too much for the girl to process as she has witnessed several memorializations to her father and met other children of the fallen.
"I was surprised that after so many years, I was struck with so much emotion," she said. "(My daughter) asked me to not take her to any more funerals anymore, so we left her behind. … (But) I thought it was beautifully done; it was a wonderful tribute to my husband.
"Joe was a very honorable person. He had the utmost integrity. He was a wonderful husband (and) truly a Soldier leader. … It was hard to come here, I have to admit. I was a little bit in avoidance and trying to move forward with my life. It can be hard to take a few steps backward, but it was certainly well worth it."