Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Derek Randall Sutton, who served as a combat engineer during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Derek Sutton originally joined the military to obtain money for college; however, he grew to love serving. Sutton adapted quickly to military life and eventually reached the rank of first lieutenant.
As a member of the Army National Guard, Sutton activated and went to Iraq as a part of the third rotation of Operation Iraqi Freedom, one month before the Iraqi election in January 2005. While deployed, he served as the operations officer of the 113th Engineer Battalion. Arriving first in Kuwait, Sutton’s job was to receive equipment, inventory it correctly, distribute it and perform maintenance on vehicles for the drive to Iraq. Upon reaching Mosul, Iraq, Sutton lived at a preestablished Army base that had previously been an Iraqi Air Force base.
Sutton’s company set up and fortified the polling sites for the Iraqi election. Human and car bombs were the biggest threat to the election, so Sutton and his fellow servicemen fortified city entrances and polling sites with concrete barriers. While there were a couple of suicide bombing attempts and a few deaths in the area, Sutton said the election went well, especially considering a military organization had never been trained to help hold an election before.
After the election, Sutton’s company went on other missions in Iraq. One mission involved building six-foot concrete barriers to fortify the abandoned buildings that Striker brigades lived in while patrolling the city to keep the peace. As a part of another mission, Sutton provided security for the ordinance disposal team as they disposed of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Sutton also helped build a berm between highway entrances to the city, forcing anyone entering the city to pass through an Iraqi weapons checkpoint.
Despite living in a hostile area, Sutton found enjoyable moments during his deployment. One of his favorite activities was making the local Iraqi children smile by handing out small items like soccer balls and candy to them. The most difficult part of serving in Iraq was being apart from his wife and two children, who were two and four at the time.
During his service in Iraq, Sutton received a Meritorious Service Medal, an Iraq Campaign Medal, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and a Combat Action Badge. Sutton returned to the U.S. in December 2005. While at home, he was employed as a police officer. He completed his service in 2007.
Overall, Sutton said he enjoyed his time in Iraq and in the military. Seeing how people lived in the Middle East taught him to appreciate things more. He also said he believes that he helped to make a positive difference in Iraq.
Thank you for your service!
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Editor: Rachel Falconer
Graphic artist: Nicole Barto