Robert V. Derenda – Sergeant First Class, Untied States Army

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
No. 808-05
August 8, 2005
Media Contact: Army Public Affairs – (703) 692-2000 Public/Industry

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Both died on August 5, 2005, in Rubiah, Iraq, when a civilian fuel truck collided with their HMMWV while performing a convoy mission.

Killed were:

Sergeant First Class Robert V. Derenda, 42, of Ledbetter, Kentucky.  Derenda was assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve's 1st Brigade, 98th Division, Rochester, New York.

Sergeant First Class Brett E. Walden, 40, of Fort Walton Beach, Florida.  Walden was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

For further information related to this release, contact Army Public Affairs at (703) 692-2000.

Funeral held for soldier killed in Iraq

A funeral Mass was held Saturday for Sergeant First Class Robert Derenda, who died August 5, 2005, in a highway crash in Iraq.

The 42-year-old Derenda was a drill instructor assigned to the 98th Army Reserve Division, training recruits for the Iraqi security forces. He grew up in Cheektowaga, graduated from the University at Buffalo and had been working as an engineer in Kentucky.

His duty in Iraq was to end next month. Nearly 40 soldiers were among those attending the service in Cheektowaga, New York.

Said Major General Bruce Robinson, “He was our comrade, our buddy, an American soldier.”

Derenda will be buried this week at Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia.

Turning raw Iraqi recruits into soldiers capable of defending their country is just what Sergeant First Class Robert V. Derenda was cut out to do, his commanding officer said Saturday during a funeral Mass for the Cheektowaga native.

Derenda, 42, died August 5, 2005, in a highway crash in northwest Iraq while assigned to the 98th Army Reserve Division. He was a drill instructor who put to good use the psychology degree he earned from the University at Buffalo before returning to UB for a degree in chemical engineering, Major General Bruce E. Robinson told mourners in St. Josaphat Catholic Church, Cheektowaga, New York.

“Robert was the right guy because of his experience” – a “natural” at whipping young men into fighting shape – Robinson said.

Derenda was working as an engineer in Kentucky when he was called up with members of the 100th Division to be part of a Military Transition Team led by the Rochester-based 98th. The team mentors and assists new Iraqi security forces.

“His grounding was as a helper and mentor,” Robinson said. “He wanted to be a leader and a role model.”

The one-time St. Francis High School cross-country runner also had a fun-loving, adventurous side, the general said. Whenever he came home to spend Thanksgiving with his parents, Valerian and Loretta Derenda, he would run in the Turkey Trot, the general noted.

“He was attracted to ladies, and he loved to get on his Harley,” Robinson said.

Nearly 40 soldiers who served with Derenda, including Major General Gregory J. Hunt, commander of the Kentucky-based 100th Division, attended the service.

“He was our comrade, our buddy, an American soldier,” Robinson said.

Derenda's life was shaped by his family and his strong belief in God and his country, said the Rev. Theodore C. Rog, pastor at St. Josaphat's.

A fellow soldier described Derenda as “a good Catholic boy,” the priest said, adding: “He was. He lived it.”

Turning to the Derenda family, Rog said: “Thank you for the gift of Robert to our parish and our community.”

Before the ceremony, Richard Schmitt of West Seneca stood on the sidewalk across William Street from the church, holding an American flag as the hearse carrying Derenda's casket pulled up to the curb.

“It hurts. It just hurts to see this going on,” said Schmitt, 77, an Army veteran of the Korean War.

Like many Americans, Schmitt is ambivalent about the Iraq War, which has claimed the lives of at least 1,847 members of the U.S. military.

“I'd like to see it end, but I don't think it's the right time yet,” Schmitt said. “I'd just like to see it happen soon.”

Derenda, whose duty in Iraq was scheduled to end next month, will be buried this week in Arlington National Cemetery.

News From The Citadel

9 August 2005

Sergeant First Class Robert V. Derenda dies in Iraq

Funeral services will be Saturday, August 13, 2005, in Cheektowaga, New York. Barron-Miller Funeral Home is in charge. Visitation is Friday, Aug. 12 from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to T.A.P.S., Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, 1621 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20009;

Sergeant First Class Robert V. Derenda, Class of 85, died August 5, 2005, when a civilian fuel tanker ran into the vehicle he was driving in Iraq.

A native of Cheektowaga, New York, Derenda, 42, attended The Citadel from August 1981 to December 1984. He majored in education and was a member of Bravo Company. Derenda went on to graduate from the University of Buffalo with a degree in chemical engineering. He was working as a chemical engineer in Paducah, Ky. before going to Iraq, according to his hometown newspaper the Buffalo News.

A drill sergeant, Derenda was assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve's 1st Brigade, 98th Division, Rochester, N.Y. He was stationed at a base in Al Kasik in northwestern Iraq and trained recruits for Iraq's military.

11 August 2005:

Sergeant First Class Robert V. Derenda's remains were returned to Buffalo, Thursday night. A small gathering of family, friends and military personnel were there to honor the fallen soldier.

Commander of the unit, Colonel Frank Cipolla, says Derenda served with honor and integrity.

“As a person he lived and breathed the army values: loyalty, duty, respect, self-service,  honor, integrity, and especially a person of courage,” Cipolla said.

Sergeant First Class Robert Derenda was in a convoy in Iraq when a civilian fuel truck pulled  out in front of him causing his vehicle to explode. Derenda is the 5th member of the 98th to die in battle.

Chaplain (Colonel) Paul Womack said that “It's a mixed bag for a soldier to lose a comrade.  And this is not a 98th division issue; this is across the board.  You're terribly  saddened and frustrated… in some respects, angry that you yourself couldn't keep this  thing from happening.”

About 700 members of the 98th were called to duty in September 2004 to help train Iraqi  forces.

Cipolla said those in the 98th division will continue the fight and keep the memory of  their comrades alive.

A funeral mass is scheduled for Sergeant First Class Derenda Saturday, August 13, 2005, in  Cheektowaga, New York.  He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on August 18, 2005.



  • DATE OF BIRTH: 07/27/1963
  • DATE OF DEATH: 08/05/2005

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