Fallen Florida soldier honored with road dedication

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Lake County is honoring the service of a local U.S. Army hero who gave the ultimate sacrifice, by naming a portion of a road after him.

Inside the Lake County Fairgrounds Expo hall, the sound of the color guards shoes marching to the front of the room is a sound the Gibson family knows all too well. It was 12 years ago that their son, Pfc. Derek A. Gibson was killed in action by an improvised explosive device during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was 20 years old.

“I never thought of course that it would happen to us,” his mother, Janet Gibson said. “But nobody ever thinks it will – you know to their family.”

Gibson graduated from Eustis High School in 2004. Entered the US Army in 2005. He was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in 2006. His life came to an end in 2007.

“This just happens to be his day to be remembered one more time,” his mother said. “I think he would think it’s pretty cool.”

Lake County commissioners and the City of Eustis approved a resolution designating part of County Road 44 to be named Pfc. Derek Arthur Gibson Memorial Highway. His family said even though most people driving down this road may never know who he was, they’re keeping his memory alive every day.

“His personality,” his brother Dustin Gibson said. “He’d just make you laugh. He wasn’t a comedian, but he probably could’ve been one if he hadn’t chosen the Army.”

Seeing his name memorialized in his hometown comes with mixed emotions for his loved ones.

“You’re happy, you’re sad, you’re everything you know,” his mother said. “This is such a neat thing that they did for him.”

His family said this is another reminder that freedom isn’t free and to thank the ones who make it home.