VICENZA, Italy – Surviving family members of 1st Lt. Derek Hines recently visited U.S. Army Garrison Italy to honor the 173rd Airborne Brigade officer who was killed in Afghanistan, 17 years ago.
Under a summer sun, Hines’ parents, Steve and Susan, and his youngest surviving sibling, Trevor, approached the Caserma Ederle memorial that honors their son, a 2003 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and his fallen comrades.
A breeze picked up and the Gold Star Family knelt down, looking at his name etched on the 10-foot-high monument – along with the names of 77 other U.S. Soldiers stationed in Vicenza who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At 5 p.m., the bugle calls, “Retreat” and “To the Colors,” sounded. Steve Hines, a career Massachusetts State Police trooper, stiffened his back and solemnly placed his hat over his heart.
“The grief is heavy,” Steve Hines said. “It doesn’t go away, it doesn’t get easier. You just learn how to carry it.”
Since 2005, when they received word that Derek Hines was killed while on patrol in Baylough, Afghanistan, the Hines family has met Soldiers who served with their son. They also have developed friendships with family members of other fallen Soldiers. From them, they learned more about the man they raised and the type of leader he was, Susan Hines said.
“As a parent, you hope you do everything to teach your kids right from wrong, how to be a good person, and help them navigate through life,” she said.
For Hines’ parents, the visit to Italy was a first. They saw where he lived and worked prior to deploying the Central Asia.
Several years ago, Hines’ family started a foundation to honor him. The foundation benefits veterans and holds running races stateside. Each year, the family hosts a five-kilometer race at Caserma Del Din, now the Vicenza headquarters of their son’s former unit.
This year, during the opening remarks, Trevor Hines shared his feelings with roughly 600 paratroopers about his brother – and how his brother’s brigade has become a huge part of his family members’ lives.
“As someone who has never put on a uniform, in the last 17 years, one thing that I’ve seen first-hand is how special the 173rd Airborne Brigade is,” Trevor Hines said. “After being here a few short days last year and a few days this year, I now fully understand the connection Derek had with his brigade, his work, and his paratroopers.”
The garrison’s Army Community Service includes Gold Star Family members in local events and has a place of honor in their foyer to pause and reflect. Gold Star refers to the longtime military tradition of replacing a blue star flag for a deployed service member with a gold star when they are killed. Gold Star Mother's Day is the last Sunday of September. To read more, visit this site.