NY bridge gets name to honor fallen hero
NASSAU -- Many who will pass over the Derek Farley Memorial Bridge know the story behind its name. Many others will not.
The tale begins in a home on Nassau Lake, where the son of a Vietnam veteran soaks up military movies and The History Channel instead of cartoons. Just after high school, he fulfills his dream and joins the Army, where he trains to take on the delicate yet profoundly dangerous task of defusing roadside bombs. He does tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, risking his life disarming countless explosives for the safety of those behind him. He dies at age 24, just two weeks before he is supposed to come home.
Staff Sgt. Derek Farley would not have wanted anything named in his honor, said his mother, Carrie Farley.
"He would be yelling at me right now if he saw this," she said with a smile Sunday at a ceremony naming the bridge after her son, who was killed Aug. 17, 2010 trying to defuse a roadside bomb in the western Afghanistan city of Farah. "He wouldn't have wanted the attention. He was a soldier through and through."
A small stretch of pavement and stone on Route 20, The Staff Sergeant Derek Farley Memorial Bridge runs over the Valatie Kill, right on the Schodack-Nassau town line. The road is a main artery for many who commute through Rensselaer County.
"When people drive to and from work, they're going to see this and remember Derek," said Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, R-Schaghticoke.
Naming the bridge after Farley was McLaughlin's idea. He proposed the legislation this past session, saw it pass easily and then swiftly come to fruition. McLaughlin was joined Sunday by a host of local lawmakers who paid tribute to Farley, including Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino, Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, Rensselaer County Legislator Alex Shannon, Nassau Town Supervisor David Fleming, Schodack Town Supervisor Dennis Dowds and state Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga.
"This bridge will be a lasting tribute to Derek's sacrifice," Jimino said. "He put himself in harm's way for others to be safe."
Farley served in Iraq from 2006 to 2007 and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009.
At the time of his death, Farley was rising quickly up the military's ranks as an expert bomb technician, receiving a Purple Heart after losing his hearing in one ear from a bomb explosion in Iraq, where he served with the 756th EOD Company. In 2009, Farley was promoted to staff sergeant while preparing for Afghanistan as an explosives ordnance disposal technician with the 702nd Ordnance Company in Grafenwoehr, Germany.
Sunday, Carrie Farley recalled how she first got the feeling her son was serious about a military career when he was around 16 and would dive into DVDs of the HBO World War II miniseries "Band of Brothers."
"He would say 'You see the camaraderie they have?' That's what I want," Farley recalled.
Her son spoke with a recruiter a year later, then signed up for the Army shortly after graduating from Columbia High School.
"We're very fortunate," Carrie Farley said. "He was able to find something he loved to do, and he did it."