Redwood City soldier killed in Afghanistan

A 21-year-old soldier from Redwood City was one of six soldiers killed in Afghanistan last weekend by a suicide bomb attack.

Derek T. Simonetta, an infantryman, died in Howz E Madad, Afghanistan, when his unit was apparently attacked by an insurgent using what military officials in Afghanistan said was a vehicle loaded with an estimated 1,000 pounds of explosives. The attack on the joint NATO-Afghan outpost killed six soldiers and injured nearly a dozen more.

Simonetta joined the Army two years ago, leaving for Fort Campbell in Kentucky in September 2008. His awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.

He attended high school in Shasta Lake, where his mother lived, and in Redwood City, where his father lived. He changed high schools a number of times, graduating from Woodside High School in 2008, according to his Facebook page.

After Simonetta graduated, he married his high school sweetheart, Kimberly, joined the Army and left for Kentucky.

He was a good-looking, blue-eyed kid who played junior varsity football and whom everyone loved, his high school counselor Randy Romero said. Simonetta’s yearning for fun, however, led him to eventually move away from Shasta Lake.

“It had to be toward the springtime of his junior year when he started running around, cutting school,” Romero said.

“His mom just wanted to keep track of his grades all the time because it was so easy for him to slip. Derek was just such a good kid, but he was so happy-go-lucky and he wanted to have fun.”

Bogged down by weekly grade checks, Simonetta went back to live with his father, Romero said.

“He did OK if he decided he was going to do well. School just wasn’t his priority. He did what he wanted to do,” Romero said. “Everybody loved him for it.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger commended Simonetta and another California soldier in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.

“The deaths of Specialist Kenneth Necochea Jr. and Specialist Derek Simonetta are a great loss for California and the nation,” Schwarzenegger said. “Their sacrifice on behalf of our country is a solemn reminder of the value of our freedoms.”

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

Wire services contributed to this report.

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